Divorce can be an arduous process that's loaded with difficult emotions and negotiations. Most people aren't experts in the divorce process when they go through theirs, and it's always advisable you work with an experienced NJ divorce attorney if divorce is in your future. One of the biggest concerns a divorce brings to the table is the issue of alimony or spousal support. Most want to know:
- What is alimony?
- How long does an alimony award last?
- Can you modify or terminate an alimony award?
“Alimony” and “spousal support” are interchangeable terms in New Jersey divorce, and both refer to the support one ex-spouse receives from another during or after the divorce proceedings. The type and amount of alimony award will vary in each divorce, and it's important both parties understand the terms of the alimony order specific to their divorce.
Who Gets Spousal Support in New Jersey?
Alimony was historically focused on women, but these days, alimony awards aren't gender-based. Ultimately, the lower-earning spouse will benefit from alimony, especially if they put their career on hold while the higher-earning spouse pursued their own career.
Generally, alimony will be awarded when one spouse earns considerably more than the other. Alimony might also be prescribed by a pre-nuptial agreement. The court doesn't always have to award alimony. In fact, a court may decide against an alimony award if the parties haven't been married for very long or if the parties each earn similar incomes.
How is Alimony Calculated in a New Jersey Divorce?
There is no one-size-fits-all rule for determining alimony calculations in New Jersey. According to NJ Rev Stat § 2A:34-23 (2014), the court should consider the following in making an alimony award:
- 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 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
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant
Every divorce is different, requiring unique legal attention. To ensure your best interests are properly advocated for, you should always work with a divorce attorney in New Jersey.
The Types of New Jersey Alimony
There are different types of alimony in the state of New Jersey, and each serves a specific purpose:
- Pendente Lite Alimony is temporary alimony awarded before the divorce is finalized by the court. The purpose of this type of alimony is to ensure the family lifestyle can be maintained during the divorce, which is often a lengthy and expensive process.
- Reimbursement Alimony is applied in limited scenarios and can be used to reimburse a spouse who helped pay for the other's advanced degree, such as a law school or medical school.
- Rehabilitative Alimony might be ordered when a spouse needs help reentering the workforce after a divorce. These awards are limited in time and provide financial support that can allow the benefitting spouse to obtain the tools necessary to support themselves in the long term.
- Limited Duration Alimony is also a short-term alimony award designed to terminate after a specific amount of time. This type of alimony award may be ordered when the marriage is relatively short.
- Open Durational Alimony may be awarded when parties were married for more than 20 years. In these awards, alimony will continue until a party requests a modification.
Can NJ Spousal Support Orders Be Modified or Terminated?
New Jersey alimony is never permanent, even in open durational alimony awards. Still, that doesn't mean one or both parties can't seek to modify the alimony award at some point. New Jersey law allows parties to reduce or change alimony payments when the balance of justice in enforcing the payment has changed. That is to say, if the payor party becomes unduly burdened by the financial obligation or the payee party starts earning significantly more on their own, then an order could and should be modified. An alimony order may also be terminated when the payee party cohabitates with a new partner or remarries.
It's important to note that the burden of proof for demonstrating alimony should be reduced or terminated lies with the party seeking to modify or terminate the order.
Hire a New Jersey Alimony Attorney
If you're trying to navigate the difficult process of divorce, contact experienced NJ divorce attorney Joseph D. Lento for help today. Mr. Lento understands the difficulties that lay ahead for you, and he and his dedicated family law team at the Lento Law Firm will advocate for your best interests during your divorce. To learn how Mr. Lento can help you, call 888-535-3686 today or contact us online.