Alimony is always one of the most difficult subjects for spouses to negotiate in a divorce. Generally, the person who pays spousal support believes that the amount is too much and the person who receives it feels it is not enough. Both parties may be correct. Many times the couple is going from a two-income household to two separate one-income households. Some of their fixed expenses remain the same, some increase and some lessen. Overall, it can be a challenge to create a financial situation that allows each person to meet their expenses and needs.
Types of Alimony
In New Jersey, there are five different types of alimony:
- Pendente Lite Alimony: This is a type of temporary alimony/spousal support that the court can make to allow the parties to maintain the status quo during the divorce process. The courts do not always follow all of the factors listed in the statute in establishing a pendente lite alimony amount. Pendente lite support either ends or is changed to a different form of alimony upon the entry of a Final Judgment of Divorce.
- Open Durational Alimony: Where a couple is married for twenty years or more, or under exceptional circumstances, the term of alimony does not have a specified end date. Instead, alimony will end upon either the agreement of the parties or as determined by the court. Under the alimony statute, it is presumed that spousal support will end when the person paying support retires. This is a rebuttable presumption.
- Limited Duration Alimony: The New Jersey alimony statute holds that in marriages of less than 20 years in length, the term of alimony is not to exceed the length of the marriage. This means that in a marriage of 10 years in length, the maximum term for spousal support is 10 years. The amount of alimony may be modified if there are “changed circumstances” but the length of the duration cannot.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: This type of alimony is for a spouse who has a plan which sets for the time and effort that will be needed to allow him or her to return to the workforce. The plan show’s the type of rehabilitation, steps to be taken and how long it is anticipated it will take for the spouse to complete their rehabilitation. The amount of support includes funds for education and living expenses during the timeframe.
- Reimbursement Alimony: Reimbursement alimony is for those situations where one spouse supported the other to allow him or her to advance in his/her career or education. Reimbursement alimony is not modifiable and is used in specific circumstances.
N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) lists 14 factors for the court to consider when awarding alimony. The are as follows:
- The actual need and ability of the spouses to pay.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The age, physical and emotional health of the spouses.
- The standard of living established and the likelihood that each spouse can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living, with neither spouse having a greater entitlement to that standard than the other.
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the spouses.
- The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance.
- The parental responsibilities for the children.
- The time/expense necessary to acquire sufficient education/training to enable the spouse seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of training/employment and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income.
- The history of the financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage by each spouse including contributions to care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities.
- The equitable distribution ordered, and any payouts of equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration, just and fair.
- The income available to each spouse through investment of assets held by the spouse.
- The tax treatment/consequences to both parties of the alimony award, including whether all or a part of it is non-taxable.
- The nature, amount and length of pendente lite support aid.
- All other factors that the Court may deem relevant.
There is not a formula for alimony, as there is with the Child Support Guidelines. Alimony determinations by the court are subjective based on the facts of the case and the judge’s interpretations of the law and the facts. No one can guarantee the amount of an alimony award, or if there will even be alimony in a particular case. That is why it is important to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer to determine strategies regarding alimony and spousal support.