Determining Alimony in Your New Jersey Divorce
During your New Jersey divorce, you, your spouse, and your respective attorneys have many opportunities to reach a settlement. The State structures the divorce process to encourage negotiation and requires mediation at specific stages, including the Early Settlement Panel and Economic Mediation. Among the most challenging issues in many divorces, and one of the significant matters to resolve as your attorneys work toward a settlement is alimony, also known as “spousal support.” Perhaps this is because alimony represents more than just money; it is a tangible recognition of who did what during your marriage and what each of you deserves moving forward. In this article, we will examine the purpose of alimony, the factors that the court considers when making these determinations, and the way in which alimony has changed since the passage of New Jersey’s Alimony Reform Bill in 2014.
What is Alimony?
First and foremost, we must understand the definition and intention of alimony as described in New Jersey law. Alimony, also referred to as “spousal support” or “spousal maintenance,” is a type of financial support provided to one spouse by the other after divorce. The intention of alimony is to allow both spouses to continue their lives with a standard of living that is as comparable as possible to that which they maintained during their marriage. The underlying presumption behind alimony is that both spouses in some way contributed to the assets accumulated during the marriage and the associated marital lifestyle.
For example, if one spouse was the primary caregiver of the children and did not work outside of the home, his or her commitment to these responsibilities is thought to have allowed the other spouse to pursue his or her career goals. Although this was a more common arrangement in years passed, two-income households have paved the way for significant modifications in New Jersey policy regarding alimony. It is important to note that alimony is entirely gender-neutral and is not necessarily applicable in all cases. The court determines the need for alimony and the associated amount on a case-by-case basis, provided that you and your spouse do not reach an agreement through marital settlement.
Factors of Alimony
Under New Jersey law, the court must consider the following factors when making an alimony determination:
- The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The age, physical and emotional health of the spouses;
- The standard of living established during the marriage, and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living;
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
- The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking alimony;
- Parental responsibilities for children resulting from the marriage;
- The time and expense necessary for the spouse who’s seeking alimony to obtain enough training and education to become gainfully employed and acquire assets and income independently;
- The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party, including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers and educational opportunities;
- The equitable distribution of property ordered in the divorce and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, provided that this consideration is 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 if alimony was awarded, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment; and
- Any other factors the court deems relevant.
Alimony Reform in New Jersey
New Jersey law significantly changed as it relates to alimony with the passage of the Alimony Reform Bill of 2014. With Bill A845, New Jersey ushered in a new policy regarding alimony, with one of the most important changes involving what was previously known as “permanent alimony.” Specifically, permanent alimony was replaced with “open durational alimony,” which means that although alimony payments may not have a fixed termination date, these payments are not to be made interminably. Also, open durational alimony is not awarded in cases involving marriages that did not last for less than 20 years unless exceptional circumstances exist. As for limited durational alimony, these payments should not extend beyond the length of the marriage.
Contact our Passiac County NJ Alimony Lawyers
To learn more about alimony in New Jersey and how it may apply to your divorce, contact the Passaic County law offices of The Montanari Law Group at 973.233.4396 today. One of our highly knowledgeable New Jersey divorce attorneys will discuss your case and answer your questions with a cost-free consultation.