- June 26, 2021
File Under: Alimony
How Do New Jersey Courts Award Alimony?
When a New Jersey couple is facing the end of their marriage, there are many legal issues that they must address throughout the divorce process. If the divorce is somewhat amicable, they can sometimes come to an accord on the division of marital assets and financial obligations, as well as alimony, on their own. They would then present this to a judge to be reviewed and adopted as their agreement.
However, if talks have broken down and mediation sessions have proven to be unfruitful, the couple will proceed to litigation and have some or all of these issues decided by a judge. If you find yourself in this position, your Lawrence Law divorce lawyer can help you to determine if you qualify for receiving alimony or the chances that you may be ordered to pay.
Whether you are a potential recipient of alimony or are concerned that you might be ordered to pay it, you should know that an award of alimony is not a given in every divorce case. In general, it is based upon the needs of the receiving spouse as well as the financial circumstances of the person ordered to pay.
Other Factors That Are Considered
Pursuant to New Jersey Statutes Title 2A. Administration of Civil and Criminal Justice 2A § 34-23, courts are required to take these factors into account when determining whether or not to award alimony:
- How long the marriage lasted
- The age and health of each spouse
- The capacity of each spouse to earn a living, including skills, level of education, and employability
- The standard of living the couple enjoyed while they were married and the likelihood that they will be able to maintain a reasonably comparable one after the marriage has ended
- If the couple has minor children, what their parental responsibilities will be after they divorce
- The nature and value of the assets that each party will be receiving as a result of the equitable distribution of marital property
- How long of an absence from the workforce there has been for the party who is seeking support
- How much time and money it will take for the party who is seeking alimony to acquire the skills and/or education necessary to return to gainful employment
- A comparison of the contributions that each spouse has made to the marriage, recognizing that they are not always just financial in nature
- The amount of income generated by any assets that each party may own
- The amount and duration of any temporary support that might have been ordered pendente lite
- Any other factors that the court might deem relevant
There is No Set Formula
Courts have discretion when determining the amount of alimony to award and how long it will be paid. There is no set formula that New Jersey family law judges are required to follow. After considering the aforementioned factors, the court will set the amount to be paid and the duration based on the individual circumstances of each case.
The Types of Alimony That Might Be Awarded
If the court determines that alimony is appropriate, there are several different types that can be awarded, and the court can order just one form or combine one or more of them. They include:
- Open durational alimony – This is paid so that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable lifestyle. In general, however, if the marriage lasted for less than 20 years, alimony may not be paid for longer than 20 years unless there are exceptional circumstances.
- Rehabilitative alimony – This form of alimony is granted in cases where the recipient needs time and funds to acquire the skills or education necessary to earn a reasonable living. The receiving spouse must outline the steps they plan to take and the timeline for it.
- Reimbursement alimony – As the term implies, this is a situation where one spouse financially provided for the other’s higher education expenses and had a reasonable expectation of enjoying the results of the higher standard of living that such education would eventually provide. In such cases, the court would order the paying spouse to pay back the other party for their contributions.
- Limited duration alimony – This is generally only awarded when the marriage has been brief and the recipient is young and has good employment prospects.
Types of Payments
There are multiple methods for making alimony payments, such as paper checks or direct deposit. Generally, the couple will decide on which to use. If the parties cannot agree, however, the court may order the paying spouse’s employer to withhold the funds to be sent directly to the receiving spouse through the state’s family support services.
In mediation, parties can agree to a lump sum or transfer ownership of certain assets to the other party as part of an alimony arrangement in lieu of monthly payments.
Duration of Alimony Payments
How long the paying spouse will be responsible for payments will vary depending on the individual details of the case. Some types of alimony do, however, have additional guidelines for when payments end. Limited duration alimony, for example, ends if the receiving spouse remarries or enters into a civil union. Permanent alimony has similar guidelines.
Rehabilitative and reimbursement alimony end if the court determines there is reason to terminate the order. The divorced parties can also agree to terminate alimony payments on their own.
Modifying an Existing Award
Other than reimbursement alimony, either party can request a modification to an existing award if they experience a change in financial circumstance, such as the loss of a job. This is not to imply, however, that a court will always approve such a request. If both spouses have signed a written agreement not to change the order, however, this option may not be available. Your Lawrence Law family lawyer can give you more information about these matters and how to go about filing a petition to have an alimony court order modified.
Is Everyone Entitled to Receive an Award of Spousal Support?
Under New Jersey law, not every ex-spouse is entitled to receive alimony. Those who have previously been convicted of murder, manslaughter, or aggravated assault, whether by the state or by another jurisdiction, are ineligible. In addition, those who have been convicted of attempted murder or a conspiracy to murder are ineligible if the victim was their spouse.
An Experienced Family Law Attorney Can Help
If you find yourself facing a divorce, call Jeralyn Lawrence at Lawrence Law who can help you determine the chances that you might be ordered to pay alimony or whether you should request it. Contact us at (908) 645-1000 to see how we can help with your divorce case.