Divorce FAQ's

What are the Different Types of Alimony in New Jersey?

1. How many different types of alimony are there in New Jersey?

There are four different types of alimony in New Jersey, and they are classified as limited duration alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony and open durational alimony. The primary purpose of alimony is to permit one spouse, typically the spouse with lesser earnings or earning capacity, to continue to live as similar a lifestyle after the divorce as she did during the marriageIn long term marriages it is very common for open duration alimony to be awarded. Open durational alimony has replaced permanent alimony. This is typically only granted to couples that were married for at least 20 years. In this form of spousal support, the court will not necessarily set an end date for the support payments. If there is a change in circumstance, the parties can request that the alimony is terminated.

2. How does a court determine alimony?

The legal process to determine alimony is very subjective to say the least. The issue of alimony is typically the major impediment for parties to reach a settlement. Unlike determining child support there are no alimony guidelines. Moreover, there are no computer programs that will assist you to determine the amount of alimony. Nonetheless, the alimony laws do provide the court with a list of alimony factors or guidelines to be considered when determining the amount and length of an alimony award. These factors include the length of the marriage, the age and health of each of the parties, the length of absence from the job market (often to take care for children), the ability to earn, and the actual earnings of the parties.

3. How does a court determine the length of an alimony award?

Generally, the longer that two people have been married, then the greater the length of an alimony award will be. Additionally, alimony can also be awarded on a temporary basis because the parties had a short-term marriage, or because of one party’s need for a short term of financial of assistance. Moreover, a party may need “rehabilitation” to allow themselves to get back on their feet. The rehabilitation is typically accomplished by way of obtaining additional education or job training. Finally, reimbursement alimony can be awarded to compensate one spouse for supporting the other party. The most typical scenario is when one spouse pays for the college education or masters, law school, MBA, or medical school for their spouse. The payor spouse has a good faith belief that she would reap the benefits of this degree during the marriage. Once the court determines the type of alimony, then it must determine the amount and the length of any alimony award.

4. What is the most critical factor to determine the amount of alimony?

The most critical factor to determine the type of alimony is to analyze the dependent spouse’s financial needs and the payor spouse’s ability to pay. Basically, this task requires the court analyze one spouse’s financial dependence upon the other during the marriage. The phrase that the courts most often use when determining alimony “to allow both parties to maintain the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage.” However, in most divorce cases it is impossible for the parties to maintain the same standard of living that they enjoyed during the marriage. Therefore, the family court will try to fashion an alimony award that is fair and reasonable to both parties, and that takes into consideration all of the facts and circumstances of the case. Perhaps the most important function of alimony is that it tries to ensure that one spouse’s standard of living won’t be unfairly reduced, while the other payor spouse’s actually increases. The underlying theme of alimony is that a divorce is a dissolution of a partnership. The court wants to ensure that both spouses are in similar economic circumstances once the divorce is finalized.

The court does not want one partner to leave the marriage partnership “without a pot to xxx in,” while the other partner is living the “life of Riley.” In any divorce case it is very important for you to discuss with your lawyer what your standard of living was during the marriage. You should be fully prepared to provide detailed examples and any documentation to support your position. A party can often verify their standard of living by reviewing financial documents, such as bank and credit card statements. These documents can be very helpful to determine what funds were spent during your marriage. In summary, the correct amount of alimony can only be determined if the court is provided with an accurate depiction of the parties’ lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage.

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