Divorce FAQ's

The Five Types of Alimony

1. What are the different types of alimony?

If you are getting divorced in New Jersey, then alimony could soon be one of your biggest headaches. There are five types of alimony. In this article, I will provide you with an overview of each type of alimony. Alimony is also commonly referred to as spousal support.

A. Pendente Lite or Temporary Alimony

If you file for divorce, then your spouse could need temporary financial assistance until the divorce is finished. Your spouse may need support to pay for rent, food, pay the mortgage, pay the car bill, or any type of everyday bill(s). Many divorces can be dragged out for years. Therefore, it makes little sense to wait until the end of the case to award alimony. To address this problem, one spouse could file an application for pendente lite alimony or temporary alimony. Pendente lite alimony is simply temporary support until the court can determine what is the final terms of alimony.

Temporary alimony can be paid throughout the divorce process until a final property settlement agreement (PSA) is reached, or until the parties finish their trial. In most divorces with children, then it is imperative that a motion for temporary alimony should be filed as soon as practicable. Once the temporary alimony award is on the books, then an immediate application should also be made to garnish the payor spouse.

Don’t expect that your ex-spouse will voluntarily pay you alimony with a smile. This is not how the real world works. Collecting alimony payments can be similar to pulling teeth. In this harsh economy, and given the high cost of living in New Jersey collecting alimony is a major challenge. Sooner or later, New Jersey will probably find a way to tax the air that we breathe! Once the temporary alimony award order is signed by the judge, then you should immediately fill out the confidential litigant forms and submit it to your local County Probation. Thereafter, Probation will start the process to garnish the payor spouse.

There is about a six-week lag time until the garnishment kicks in. Basically, Probation will send the wage execution order for garnishment to the payor’s place of employment. Once the employer receives the garnishment order, then the temporary alimony will be deducted from the payor’s paycheck. This process typically takes about six to eight weeks. In the interim, in theory the payor should make his temporary alimony payments to the supported support on a direct basis until the garnishment starts. However, this is quite frequently not the case. Quite typically the payor spouse builds up a sizable amount of alimony arrears until the garnishment starts.

B. Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is a type of alimony that is awarded in short term marriages. This type of alimony is awarded when a spouse needs financial support for only a short period of time.  Typically rehabilitation alimony is given to enable a spouse to retrain herself. These support payments should be used to enable a spouse to enroll into a county college, college, trade school, or to take a refresher course. The main goal of this educational training is to enable the supported spouse to get herself back into the working world. Rehabilitative alimony is primarily used for short term marriages that range from three to six years.

C. Reimbursement Alimony

Reimbursement alimony is primarily used when one spouse has sacrificed her career to help the other spouse to acquire a professional license such as a medical degree, a law degree, or an MBA. The family courts often recognize the sacrifices that one spouse may have made to help advance the career of the other spouse. In today’s day and age, accountants and lawyers can place a dollar amount on the value of these types of sacrifices. The ultimate dollar figure can be paid to the spouse who has made the sacrifices in the form of reimbursement alimony. Reimbursement alimony is simply a financial means by which the family court can compensate a dedicated spouse for her sacrifices that she made during the marriage.

D. Limited Duration Alimony

Limited duration alimony is the most commonly used type of alimony. In many divorces a supported spouse is only paid alimony for a fixed number of years. This type of alimony arrangement is called limited duration alimony. Limited duration alimony could apply to a wide range of marriages. It could apply to short-term marriages, mid-length marriages, and/or to long-term marriages. For limited duration alimony the alimony starts and ends on a certain date. Limited duration alimony has a beginning and it has an end.

Many payors much prefer limited duration alimony because they can see an “end in sight” as to when their payments will end. Permanent alimony can be a “major bummer” because to many payors it just never ends. After the government eats up 30% to 40% of your paycheck, and after you pay a high alimony payment, many payors don’t have enough money to live on. The alimony blues can certainly make life in the Garden State miserable indeed!

Limited duration alimony is also preferable because quite often as time progresses, the parties can negotiate buy out of the remaining alimony that may be owed. In a limited duration alimony case the dollar amount of any alimony payments can be reduced to a single buyout figure. Quite often, the parties negotiate an alimony buyout and end their dealings for good. This type of arrangement could be beneficial for both parties, and it could end years of potential acrimony between bitter ex-spouses.

E. Open Durational Alimony

The final type of alimony is called permanent alimony. Many alimony payors commonly refer to permanent alimony as a “death sentence” Permanent alimony is the most frequently awarded in long term marriages that are thirteen years or longer. It is important to emphasize that in the world of family law, the word permanent does not mean forever. Permanent alimony can be terminated on many grounds. The most common grounds to terminate alimony are the death of either spouse, or if the supported spouse should get remarried. Finally, permanent alimony payments can be reduced or terminated for endless reasons. These types of motions are called Lepis motions.

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