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New Jersey Alimony: Divorce Lawyer Explains Your Rights

If you’re facing the collapse of a marriage, the emotional upheaval may be compounded by practical concerns. Divorce has the potential to wreak havoc on your finances, so it isn’t selfish to begin exploring whether alimony is an option for you. In fact, as a New Jersey alimony attorney can explain, financial planning is a key part of the process, as your net worth could be slashed by half.

Alimony is when one spouse gives financial support to the other for a prescribed period of time.

It used to be a very common element in every divorce when the norm was for one spouse to be the breadwinner and the other a homemaker. In 1970, roughly 70 percent of American households relied solely on the income of the husband. By 2012, according to the Pew Research Center, 60 percent of U.S. families relied on dual incomes. Alimony is no longer a given, and the terms for deciding it have changed in the last several decades.

Unlike child support, where a minimum amount is tallied using the formula outlined in New Jersey Child Support Guidelines, alimony is based on more than a dozen factors spelled out in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b). There is no set formula.

Statutory Factors Considered in New Jersey Alimony Determination

New Jersey is designated an equitable distribution state when it comes to division of assets and determination of alimony in marriage dissolutions. Equitable does not mean a 50-50 split, it means “fair.”

The goal is to, as closely as possible, allow both parties to maintain the same standard of living post-divorce. Lifestyle can be established by looking at household expenses the last several years, tax returns, pay stubs, assets, liabilities and more. (Much of this will be contained in the Case Information Statement you fill out within 35 days of filing for divorce, per New Jersey Court Rule 5:5-2.) The idea is not for one person to do better than the other financially after the divorce, but to attempt to level the playing field so that the lower-earning spouse can become self-sustaining.

Alimony is strictly based on need, meaning gender is not a factor. Among the elements that are given consideration:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • Both parties’ age;
  • The physical and emotional health of both individuals;
  • Earning capacity;
  • Educational levels;
  • Vocational skills;
  • Employability;
  • How long the person seeking alimony has been absent from the job market;
  • Whether the parties have children/ parental responsibilities.

Some New Jersey alimony attorneys will tell you the unwritten rule that applies to a lot of cases is that a percentage of the difference between both individuals’ gross incomes will give you a ballpark figure of your alimony.

The distribution of assets could also impact whatever alimony is ultimately rewarded.

No More Lifelong Alimony in New Jersey

In the past, when women traditionally did not work outside the home, courts routinely awarded permanent alimony. This was mostly for long terms marriages, though what was considered long term was subject to the court’s interpretation.

That changed in a 2014 amendment to New Jersey alimony law, which introduced open durational alimony, terminated by retirement, remarriage (or even cohabitation) or death and a more precise, formulaic approach that directly correlates to the length of the marriage. In couplings that stretched less than 20 years, alimony can’t be ordered for longer than the length of the marriage except under special circumstances.

Another recent change of law has to do with taxes. As of January 1st, alimony is no longer considered tax-deductible. Although this change isn’t retroactive to prior divorces, it takes the discussion of tax breaks off the table – something that used to be a major bargaining chip in alimony determinations. If you have questions concerning alimony, call us for a free and confidential consultation.

Call Rozin|Golinder Law, LLC today for a free and confidential consultation.

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