FAQs: Alimony in NJ Part I

Is alimony in NJ automatic during a divorce?

No. Alimony is determined using a series of factors as outlined in the New Jersey Alimony statute. There are thirteen specific factors the court will look at, but the basic principle is whether one party can demonstrate the need for alimony and whether the other party can demonstrate their ability to pay. Other factors include how long the marriage was, and what the parties' standard of living was during the marriage. If one party gave up their career to focus on supporting the other or raising the children, the court will look at that. This will also be determinative in figuring out what kind of alimony in NJ is appropriate for the parties.

Is there such a thing as permanent alimony in NJ?

There are four basic kinds of alimony, based on both the needs of the party and the specific circumstances in the case. The New Jersey eliminated permanent alimony, replacing it with open durational alimony. This is only awarded to marriages that have lasted at least 20 years.

What are the other kinds of alimony?

The opposite of open durational alimony is limited duration alimony. This is support given to a spouse for only a limited period. The goal is to get the recipient spouse to a level where they no longer rely on their former spouse to make ends meet. If the marriage was less than 20 years, then any period of alimony cannot exceed the length of the marriage, unless there are exceptional circumstances.

What are some examples of exceptional circumstances?

These factors are very similar to the 13 factors in the alimony statute. The court will look at the age and health of the parties, and how dependent they were on the other spouse during the union. If the career or one spouse took precedence over the other's, or if one spouse has been out of the job market for a period to look after the children, then the court may determine that alimony longer than the length of the marriage is warranted. One common occurrence is if the spouse develops a disability and is unable to work full-time and support themselves.

Are there other forms of alimony in NJ?

Rehabilitative alimony is given to one spouse on a very short-term basis. Usually, the goal is to provide support for the spouse while they obtain training or an education to enable them to achieve a steady job. The spouse who will be receiving support should provide a plan to the court which shows the scope of their rehabilitation, such as the training they will receive, how long it will take, and the steps they will take to support themselves. This kind of alimony can be awarded in addition to open durational alimony.

What if one spouse needs temporary support until the property is divided?

A court might then award what's called pendent lite alimony. This is support paid while the dissolution is pending. The party who needs it should file a motion to ask the court to order it unless the parties agree. Although this kind of award is temporary only, the amount and length of support ordered can have an impact on the ultimate support award upon finalization of the divorce.

I worked and helped pay for my partner's tuition. Do I get any reimbursement for helping my spouse through school?

There is reimbursement alimony available to a spouse who can demonstrate that they helped support the other spouse in obtaining their education and believed that they would benefit from that party's education. For example, if one party worked and helped defray the costs of education while their spouse was in medical school, and they believed they would then be the spouse of a high-earning doctor, the court will take this into consideration and could award the other spouse a payment as reimbursement for their contribution to the other spouse's education and training.

Are there guidelines for alimony in NJ?

Presently, there are not any specific statutory guidelines to determine how much or how long alimony should be awarded for, other than the 13 basic factors offered by statute. One of the most common unofficial methods of calculating alimony in NJ is to look at the gross income of each spouse. Then you would take subtract the two gross incomes and award the lesser-paid spouse 1/3 of the difference.

For illustrative purposes, consider the following: If one spouse makes $150,000.00 each year, and the other makes $50,000.00, then the difference in income is $100,000.00. At that point, one would determine how much 1/3 of that different is - which is $33,000.00. One would then determine how much one spouse should pay each month by dividing that number by 12. In this example, the more monied spouse would need to provide $2,750 each month to the lesser paid spouse.

Are there any other factors the court can consider in determining the amount or length of alimony in NJ?

The court can also consider whether one party has more parental responsibilities, and what the equitable distribution of property shakes out to be upon the final dissolution award. Sometimes, one party might receive a significant share in the estate, such that they will not be dependent upon a monthly stipend from the other party. There are also questions of tax consequences of the alimony award, which is set to change in 2019. And finally, the last factor in the statute is any factor deemed relevant by the court. Therefore, the court has vast discretion in looking at the facts and circumstances of the party in determining the type, amount and length of any alimony award. This catch-all provision ensures the court has the freedom to look at the entire picture before making a final decision.

Alimony in NJ is an incredibly fact-sensitive inquiry. Courts will examine a lot of evidence and testimony to determine the fairest outcome. Presenting this evidence to the court can be complex. Also, see Frequently Asked Questions: Alimony in NJ Part 2 and Frequently Asked Questions: Alimony in NJ Part 3. To discuss the intricacies of alimony further, contact Peter Van Aulen at (201) 845-7400 today for a free in-office consultation.

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