During a divorce, one of the most difficult topics to discuss is alimony. The person paying does not want to pay too much (or at all) and the person receiving is either worried about not having enough money to live or that they will be dependent on their ex forever. Rarely do both spouses agree to the amount of support and for how long it will continue. In many divorces, while it is difficult to discuss it is necessary.
In New Jersey, we rely on NJSA 2A:34-23(b) when we discuss alimony. This is the statute that sets for the 14 factors regarding alimony. The factors include such items as:
- Actual need and ability to pay of the parties;
- Duration of the marriage;
- Age and health of each of the spouses;
- How the parties lived during the marriage and each’s ability to maintain a reasonably similar standard of living post-divorce;
- Level of education and employability of each spouse;
- If a spouse has been out of the workforce, how long he or she has been out of the job market;
- If there are children, the responsibility of each parent for the children;
- If a spouse needs to obtain education or training to enter the workforce, the time and cost to obtain such education and training;
- The financial contributions of each party during the marriage;
- The assets each spouse receives during the divorce and the cost of those assets/payouts;
- Income each party may receive from investment of assets;
- Tax treatment of both parties;
- The amount and length of pendente lite support;
- And any other factors the Court deems relevant.
It is generally held that no one factor is more important than another in making a determination on alimony.
With alimony, one thing to understand is that the length of alimony is not to exceed the length of the marriage in marriages of less than 20 years, except under unusual circumstances. This means if the marriage lasted for 10 years, alimony is not to be for a term longer than 10 years. Where a marriage is more than 20 years in length, alimony is subject to open durational alimony, with no set end date. In a case of open duration alimony, there is a presumption that alimony will end when the payor retires.
From a legal perspective, lawyers can look at a divorce case and rationalize if spousal support is appropriate and at what rate. With an understanding of the law and a review of the marital lifestyle and proposed budgets, an alimony scenario can be created which would likely meet the needs of both parties. This does not address all the emotions that play into the couple’s feelings about alimony.
Often a spouse is angry about what transpired during a relationship and believes that there should be compensation for their feelings. A spouse may feel fear of his or her ability to support themselves and the children, which may impact the ability to look at alimony from a purely economic standpoint. There may be resentment by a spouse of the other person not working or working to his or her full potential during the relationship, which feeds into a resentment about now having to pay spousal support. These feelings are common and come up in the alimony discussion. But they are not necessarily to be considered in a determination of the amount of alimony and the length of time where it will be paid.
Alimony could be looked at this way: You do not want to see your soon-to-be-ex-spouse impoverished or homeless, no matter how bad the marriage was. After all, you once loved this person. He or she is the parent of your children. Your children will visit him or her in their home. You want your children to be safe, happy, secure when they are in your ex’s home. You do not want to be treated poorly or be left in a bad situation, so you should not want that for your former spouse either.
By looking at alimony this way, you can start thinking about it more rationally. Instead of focusing on your anger, you can crunch the numbers and focus on your budget/spending plans post-divorce. You can look at the bigger picture and determine what will work best for you and your family.
Often, I will use a financial professional to assist spouses in the alimony discussions. CPAs and financial advisors can run multiple scenarios, look more closely at spending projections and even evaluate assets than can be utilized to assist both spouses in maintaining their lifestyle and planning for their futures. A financial professional can help you to make sure you will be OK after the divorce.
When you are getting a divorce, your main goal is making sure you and your children come out of the marriage being able to survive financially. Everyone is fearful of what their life will look like post-divorce. That is why it is important to have someone to assist you through the process. Questions about alimony? You can call the office to schedule a consultation or click on the Schedule Now button on the website.