Alimony is often one of the most combative areas of a divorce. Determining how much alimony and for how long is often fought about as people rarely want to pay their soon to be ex-spouse and the soon to be ex-spouse will rarely be happy with the amount offered. Many people find themselves having to look for new employment or an adjusted quality of life as a result of a divorce. Parties need to remember that they will now be running two households on the same amount of money they used to run one. This is a challenge.
It is not uncommon for one spouse to be ill-equipped to provide for themselves financially, especially if they were the spouse taking care of the children or the household. In instances such as this, the ex-spouse who has adequate financial means may be required to make spousal support or alimony payments to the other person. Our East Brunswick alimony lawyers can represent you throughout your divorce proceedings to ensure a fair alimony agreement is drafted no matter which side you are on. Negotiating the proper amount of alimony will be essential for your future and ability to provide for yourself after your Divorce.
Forms of Alimony in New Jersey
In the state of New Jersey there are several types of alimony awards:
- Open Durational – Prior to 2014 Open Durational alimony was known as permanent alimony. Under the new alimony statute Open Durational alimony is awarded in long-term marriages which are defined as 20 years or more. Although the term has no end date, parties have the right to request a modification (reduction or termination) of alimony upon proving to the Court that there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the entry of the Divorce. For example good faith retirement or a spouse getting remarried may be considered a change of circumstances that would warrant a modification of alimony.
- Pendente Lite – Pendente lite means “during the litigation” As such, this is support that is paid while the Divorce is ongoing. It is also known as “temporary” support. The purpose of Pendente Lite support is to preserve the status quo and as such is based on the need of the parties during the Divorce. This amount is subject to change at the end of a Divorce and almost always does. These are temporary alimony payments with the purpose of each party maintaining their financial position.
- Rehabilitative – Is granted with the purpose of helping one party re-enter the workforce as well as giving them the opportunity to acquire the necessary skills or education to do so. This type of alimony also has a specific end date. What differentiates this from Limited Durational alimony is that the receiver of alimony usually has a plan in place to “rehabilitate” themselves financially. They are able to articulate the steps they plan to take and the estimated time of rehabilitation. As such, this is usually a short-term award.
- Limited Duration – These are alimony payments that are to be made for a set time period and have a fixed end date. Limited Duration alimony is awarded in marriages that span less than 20 years and cannot exceed the length of the marriage unless there are unusual circumstances such as a spouse being disabled during the marriage. In determining the length of the alimony term the Court will attempt to establish how long it would take the receiver of alimony to re-establish their life and increase their incomes so they can become self-supporting. While the amount of Limited Duration alimony may be modified based on a change of circumstance, the Court will rarely modify the length of the term. However, there is always a possibility of outright termination if unusual circumstances arise.
- Reimbursement – The purpose of Reimbursement alimony is to help one party recover financial contributions they expended toward the career and training of the other. There is no specific alimony formula in New Jersey. Thus, if the parties are unable to settle the issue of alimony the Court will look at the statutory factors of N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) when making the final decision.
The factors the Court will weigh are:
- 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; and
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
Only after applying these factors to your case will the Court make a decision as to alimony. Finally, something to consider is that alimony is considered taxable income to the spouse receiving it and tax deductible to the spouse paying it.
What are the Statutory Alimony Factors in New Jersey?
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;
- How long the person seeking alimony has been absent from the job market;
- Whether the parties have children/ parental responsibilities.
Some East Brunswick 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.
How Long is the Duration of Alimony?
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. Section 2A:34-23 limits alimony for marriages lasting 20 years or less to no longer than the length of the marriage, except in “exceptional circumstances.” The law also creates a rebuttable presumption that alimony will terminate when the paying spouse reaches full retirement age. The statute lists numerous factors for courts to consider if a spouse receiving alimony wishes to challenge the presumption and continue receiving alimony.
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 Our Middlesex County Alimony Lawyers at (732) 810-0034!
When clients work with Rozin | Golinder Law, they work with the specific attorney who handles their case. Our East Brunswick alimony lawyers don't hand off the case to someone else who isn’t qualified. In fact, we strive to provide all of our clients with the same level of personal attention as though they are our own friends and family. You can call our firm for counsel whether you are in Monmouth County, Somerset County or Union County.