Alimony

In matters where alimony is a concern, we work with our clients to fully understand their current situation and discuss ways to protect themselves and their future financial security.

Alimony is the financial award a spouse may pay or receive as part of a divorce. The spouse that receives the payment is typically the individual that was financially dependent on his or her spouse throughout the course of the marriage with a continued need for support, and their spouse has the ability to pay. The benchmark for the support is to allow both parties to maintain a reasonably comparable marital lifestyle.

Frequently Asked New Jersey Alimony Questions

What is alimony?

Alimony/spousal support is support paid, incident to divorce, from one party to another in recognition of their marital lifestyle they shared and created during the marriage considering the multitude of contributions each party made to the marriage, both financial and non-financial in nature.

What is open durational alimony in New Jersey?

In New Jersey, open durational alimony, in most circumstances, is reserved for marriages that last for at least twenty years. This form of spousal support will continue until such time as there is a change in circumstances warranting modification or termination of that spousal support obligation. For marriages less than twenty years, if there are exceptional circumstances, it may be an open durational case.

What is limited duration alimony in New Jersey?

A spousal support obligation that lasts for a defined period and is generally awarded in marriages that were shorter than twenty years in duration. While the amount of a limited duration alimony obligation is always subject to change, the duration of a limited duration alimony obligation is generally not subject to change and is for a set number of years.

What is pendente lite support?

Pendente lite support, otherwise referred to as temporary or interim support, is a form of support that is awarded early on in divorce litigation and is meant to cover the expenditures of the parties pending the litigation and until such time as the Court can give the matter a full review.

What is rehabilitative alimony?

It is a financial support obligation that is meant to afford the supported spouse with the time and opportunity to place them in a better position to financially support themselves. It is a short-term obligation typically awarded to provide financial support to a dependent spouse while he/she prepares to reenter the workforce through additional training and/or education. A detailed rehabilitative plan is required that outlines what is needed for the spouse to be rehabilitated.

What is reimbursement alimony?

It is an financial support obligation awarded under circumstances where one party supported the other party through his or her education in anticipation of benefitting in that party’s increased earning capacity. It is meant to compensate one party who made financial sacrifices that resulted in the realization of a lower marital standard of living thereby permitting the other party to forego gainful employment to secure an advanced degree or license.

How is alimony calculated in New Jersey?

There is no formula or bright-line rule for determining spousal support in New Jersey. Instead, the court must analyze all the statutory factors to determine an appropriate amount under the unique circumstances of each individual case.

Can a spouse limit their exposure to alimony by having a prenuptial agreement?

Yes. Like a waiver of spousal support in a property settlement agreement, the parties are free to limit their respective exposure/entitlement to alimony, so long as the terms are entered into knowingly and voluntarily. See FAQ’s regarding prenuptial agreements.

Can a person request alimony after the divorce?

Generally, no. In order to have any entitlement to alimony, a party must request it in its initial pleading, along with any other potential claims.  At the resolution of the divorce matter, anything that has been plead is generally deemed resolved or abandoned, depending on the terms and circumstances of the parties’ Agreement or Final Judgment of Divorce issued by the court.

Can alimony be modified in New Jersey?

Perhaps.  A party must show that there is a permanent and substantial change in circumstances warranting the review, modification, suspension, and/or termination of spousal support.

Can a person insert an anti-modification of alimony clause in the property settlement agreement?

Yes. The parties are free to waive their right to either receive spousal support and/or have it subject to modification in the future, regardless of what changed circumstances may exist. This provision must be clearly stated, and like all provisions in a property settlement agreement, it must be entered into knowingly and voluntarily.

Can a spouse file a motion for a decrease in alimony?

Yes, unless there is anti-modification clause built into the parties’ Agreement. A motion for a decrease in spousal support can be filed based upon changed circumstances occurring subsequent to the entry into that obligation.

Can a spouse file a motion for an increase in alimony?

Yes, unless there is anti-modification clause built into the parties’ Agreement. A motion for an increase in spousal support can be filed based upon changed circumstances occurring subsequent to the entry into that obligation.

Can alimony be extended to open durational alimony in New Jersey if married for less than twenty years?

Yes, under certain exceptional circumstances, so long as there is no anti-modification clause built into the parties’ Agreement. Exceptional circumstances which may require an adjustment to the duration of alimony include:

(1) The ages of the parties at the time of the marriage or civil union and at the time of the alimony award;

(2) The degree and duration of the dependency of one party on the other party during the marriage or civil union;

(3) Whether a spouse or partner has a chronic illness or unusual health circumstance;

(4) Whether a spouse or partner has given up a career or a career opportunity or otherwise supported the career of the other spouse or partner;

(5) Whether a spouse or partner has received a disproportionate share of equitable distribution;

(6) The impact of the marriage or civil union on either party’s ability to become self-supporting, including but not limited to either party’s responsibility as primary caretaker of a child;

(7) Tax considerations of either party;

(8) Any other factors or circumstances that the court deems equitable, relevant and material.

If a spouse receiving alimony remarries does this terminate his/her right to receive alimony?

Yes. Remarriage, along with the death of either party, are automatic termination of spousal support events.

If a spouse remarries does this terminate his/her obligation to pay alimony?

No. The remarriage of a supporting spouse does not have an impact on his/her spousal support obligation.

Can alimony be terminated if the supported spouse cohabitates with another man/woman?

Yes, cohabitation may be grounds for termination of alimony. In order to have spousal support terminated or suspended, the supporting spouse must show that the supported spouse is involved in a mutually supportive, personal, intimate relationship with another individual that is akin to marriage. Depending on the terms and provisions of the parties’ Agreement, the definition and/or consequence of cohabitation may differ.

Can a dependent spouse be forced to work?

No. However, the court, at its discretion, can impute income to any individual that it believes is either voluntarily underemployed or unemployed based on the circumstances.

Does bankruptcy affect alimony obligations?

No. Support related obligations cannot be discharged in bankruptcy by either spouse. However, any obligation that is deemed equitable distribution may be dischargeable in bankruptcy.

Can alimony be awarded during a domestic violence hearing?

Yes, in the form of pendente lite (temporary or interim) support. This form of support is meant to cover the status quo and reasonable expenditures of the parties until such time as the court can give the matter a full review.

How does a spouse’s earning capacity affect alimony?

Each party’s earning capacity is one of the factors a Court must consider when determining (a) if an alimony obligation exists; (b) what type of alimony to award; and (c) how much alimony to award. If the court deems that either party is voluntarily underemployed or unemployed, then it may impute income to that party.

Does alimony affect the calculation of child support?

The payment and receipt of alimony is one of the factors built into the Child Support Guidelines when calculating child support so that each party’s true financial circumstances are utilized to provide support for their child(ren). The more alimony paid/received, the less child support that is award/calculated.

Does an inheritance affect alimony in any way?

Yes. A party’s assets, whether immune or otherwise, is one of the factors that a Court must consider when making an alimony determination. In addition, a Court may utilize a party’s inheritance to the extent that it provides that party with income, whether real or imputed.

Does adultery affect alimony?

No. New Jersey is a no-fault divorce state and therefore one’s adultery has no impact on an alimony obligation absent egregious circumstances. Alimony is neither a punishment for the supporting spouse, nor a reward for the supported spouse. However, if one’s adultery has led to the dissipation of marital assets, it very well could impact the equitable distribution of the parties’ assets/liabilities.

Does retirement affect alimony?

Yes, it could. One of the statutory reasons for terminating alimony is the good faith retirement of the supporting spouse. However, this is not the “Happy Birthday” statute and it takes more than simply reaching retirement age. There must be an actual retirement and that retirement must impact the ability to pay.

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