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consideration, though acquired after the effective date of the act, have been purchased with,
or received in exchange for, money or other
property owned before that date. Moreover, if
[the statute were to be prospectively applied,]
it has been estimated, apparently without exaggeration, that the full effect of the statute would
not be felt for at least a generation.16
Clearly, where the Legislature has expressly stated
whether a new statute should be given retroactive or
only prospective affect, the Legislature’s expressed intent
must be followed. Also, there are circumstances where
the issue of retroactivity is addressed in the legislative
history. There are also circumstances where the issue of
retroactivity is implied and retroactive application may be
necessary to make the statute workable or to give it the
most sensible interpretation.17 Another category of cases
in which the Court has held that statutes may be given
retroactive application includes statutes that are ameliorative or curative.18 The Gibbons Court noted, “finally, in the
absence of a clear expression of legislative intent that the
statute is to be applied prospectively, such considerations
as the expectations of the parties may warrant retroactive
application of a statute.”19

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If a court concludes that retroactive application is
appropriate, the court must make a further inquiry to
determine whether the application would result in manifest injustice to a party adversely affected because that
party relied, to his or her prejudice, on the law that is
now to be changed, as a result of the retroactive application of the statute, and whether the consequences of this
reliance are so deleterious and irrevocable that it would
be unfair to apply the statute retroactively.20
Applying all of the aforementioned principles, the
Supreme Court in Gibbons concluded that the amendment to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 with regard to the exclusion
of gifts and inheritances among assets to be equitably
distributed should be retroactively applied. More importantly, the Court stated that, “[c]onsequently, it applies to
this case and all other cases presently on direct appeal or
in which a final judgment has not be entered. See Bellinger
v. Bellinger, 177 N.J. Super 650 (Ch. Div. 1981) (applying
amended version of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 to case tried after
the effective date of the amendment).”21
Admittedly, the Supreme Court in Gibbons found no
clear expression of legislative intent that the amendatory statute be applied prospectively. Indeed, the Court
concluded that it can be “fairly inferred” from the legislative history that the Legislature intended the amendment
to apply retroactively.22

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The Supreme Court in Gibbons also concluded that
the amendment was “curative” in so far as it reflects
the Legislature’s attempt to improve a statutory scheme
already in existence. Further, the Gibbons Court noted
that retroactive application would bring the law into
harmony with settled expectations of many donors and
donees. When examining the expectations of the alimony
reformers and the payors of alimony in this state, similar
conclusions may equally apply to the application of the
amendments to the alimony statute.
Lastly, the Court in Gibbons did not find that retroactive application of the statute would result in any manifest
injustice to the wife, notwithstanding her claims that it
would be inequitable because she relied upon the law as
it existed at the time she brought her action for divorce.
Particularly, the wife claimed she chose to seek equitable
distribution only and not alimony because of what she
believed was the broad scope of assets subject to equitable
distribution. The New Jersey Supreme Court, however,
concluded that no manifest injustice would result from
retroactive application of the amendatory statute to the
wife’s case since “any orders pertaining to alimony or
other support, may be revised and altered by the court
from time to time as circumstances may require.”23
The issue of pipeline retroactivity was also discussed
in the case of Edgerton v. Edgerton.24 In Edgerton, the
wife appealed from the denial of her trial court motion
brought under Rule 4:50-1(f) in which she had sought to
modify that portion of a property settlement agreement
(PSA) incorporated into a final judgment of divorce dealing with inherited assets and equitable distribution. The
wife’s inherited assets had been considered subject to
equitable distribution in the agreement. The wife argued
that because the equitable distribution statute had been
amended to remove inherited property from distribution,
and that change had been declared retroactive by the
Supreme Court in Gibbons, she was entitled to modify the
judgment.
The Appellate Division reversed the denial of her
motion and remanded to the trial court with instructions to declare those assets included in the property
settlement agreement that had been acquired by the wife
by way of inheritance to be solely her property and not