Divorce is more than the end of an intimate relationship. Divorce also involves the division of the spouses’ assets and debts, sometimes called the marital pot. But sometimes dividing the marital pot is not enough. In addition to dividing the marital pot, New Jersey (NJ) divorce laws allow the court to order one party to pay alimony to the other spouse after the divorce is final. This blog will discuss the legal aspects of alimony in NJ.
Types of Alimony in NJ
NJ divorce laws provide for two basic kinds of alimony, temporary and open durational. Temporary alimony is awarded until a certain date or event. There are three types of temporary alimony:
- Limited duration alimony
- Reimbursement alimony
- Rehabilitative alimony
Limited Duration Alimony in New Jersey
A court awards limited duration alimony to put the needier spouse in a more secure financial position following the divorce. This type of alimony must be paid until a certain date or until a certain event, such as the employment or remarriage of the spouse receiving the payments.
Reimbursement Alimony in New Jersey
A slightly different type of spousal support, reimbursement alimony, is intended to compensate one spouse for his or her contribution during the marriage. A court may award reimbursement alimony to a spouse who worked and supported the family while the other spouse went to school to earn a degree or certification that was intended to benefit the parties.
Rehabilitative Alimony in New Jersey
Rehabilitative alimony is also a temporary type of post-divorce spousal support. If one spouse does not have the education or training to be self-supporting after the divorce, a court may order the other spouse to pay rehabilitation alimony to allow the first spouse to obtain that education.
Open Durational Alimony in New Jersey
Finally, a court may award open durational alimony, meaning alimony that is not scheduled to terminate on a certain date or upon the occurrence of a certain event. Although it is called open durational, the name is misleading because all forms of alimony may be modified by subsequent court order.
How Is Alimony in NJ Determined?
Alimony is not awarded in every divorce. Generally, if the parties are unable to agree on alimony the court holds an evidentiary hearing before deciding whether to award alimony in NJ. At the hearing, the parties offer evidence on their respective earning capacities after the divorce. Following the hearing, the court must decide whether to award alimony and, if so, the type and duration.
Whether to award alimony and in what amount cannot be determined based on a simple mathematical formula. In making these determinations, the court may consider any relevant factor but, at a minimum, must consider the following factors:
- The actual need and ability of the parties to pay
- The duration of the marriage or civil union
- The age, physical, and emotional health of the parties
- The standard of living established in the marriage or civil union and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living, with neither party having a greater entitlement to that standard of living than the other
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties
- The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance
- The parental responsibilities for the children
- The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income
- The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage or civil union by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities
- The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair
- The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party
- The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment
- The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite support paid, if any
New Jersey Statute 2A-34-23. If a court decides to award alimony, the court’s written order must detail the factors and evidence relied on in reaching that decision.
Effects of Alimony
As mentioned above, the purpose of alimony in NJ is to provide financial assistance to a spouse who would otherwise be unable to be self-supporting or live at a standard close to that maintained during the marriage.
But the payment of alimony affects the parties beyond the transfer of money from one to the other. Like other income, alimony is taxable to the person receiving it and tax-deductible to the person paying it. Thus, there are also tax consequences to be considered when requesting alimony.
Can Alimony in NJ Be Changed or Terminated?
Neither temporary nor open durational alimony is carved in stone. In certain circumstances, the person paying alimony may ask the court to modify the alimony order. So, for example, if the former spouse paying alimony retires or becomes unemployable for any reason, he or she may ask the court to reconsider or modify the alimony order.
Alimony in NJ is a complicated subject. Whether to request alimony, the type of alimony to request, and whether to ask for a modification of an alimony order require consideration of multiple factors and may require an evidentiary hearing before the court.
If you have questions about alimony in NJ, contact me, Elizabeth Rozin-Golinder, by filling out my Contact Form or calling (732) 810-0034. From my office in East Brunswick, I serve those facing divorce throughout NJ, including Middlesex County and Monmouth County.