In our firm’s family law practice and when we serve as Early Settlement Panelists to mediate divorce cases for the Superior Court of New Jersey, Family Part, Chancery Division, perhaps the most common issue in the overwhelming majority of divorce cases involves the issue of ……. alimony! When clients meet with us at the beginning of a case, invariably, the most burning questions they ask us are:
Will I have to pay alimony to my husband or wife, if I get divorced?
Am I entitled to receive alimony? If so, what type of alimony? How long will my alimony last? The next inquiry is always, and perhaps the most important one to the client is “HOW MUCH ALIMONY WILL I HAVE TO PAY? or, “HOW MUCH ALIMONY AM I ENTITLED TO RECEIVE?”
We are frequently asked, “What if I want to live with someone after I start or after I finish my divorce? How will this impact the alimony? What if I am receiving alimony and my former spouse dies?
These are ALL good, important questions that we attempt to answer for our prospective clients, and guide and counsel them in their divorce action.
Unfortunately, if you are looking for a quick answer right now from reading this blog, you won’t find it. This is because the answers to these questions are not arrived at by the mere consult of a formula, or a page in a book, where you simply plug in some income data, some dates, and other information and it spews out the amount, the type, or the duration of alimony that you will have to pay or you would be entitled to receive, as the case may be. Indeed, that IS the case, generally, as to how child support is calculated (i.e.- by use of the New Jersey Child Support Guidelines). Not so when it comes to alimony!
Instead, the answer to these questions comes from years and years of experience in applying and advocating the factors found in the New Jersey Case Law and Statutes which set forth the criteria which allows, in fact, directs the judges and the family law attorneys to consider when making a determination as to alimony. Of course, ultimately, it is the judge’s determination that will govern if the parties, despite assistance of their counsel, have not been able to settle their case without the necessity for the judge to conduct a trial after which the judge will enter the alimony award. Fortunately, with experienced legal counsel, statistically, approximately 90-95% of all divorce cases that enter the system will, eventually, settle; that is, the parties and their counsel will be able to achieve an agreement with respect to the issues in their case, including alimony, without having to endure the emotionally and oftentimes, financially draining process of a trial. And, if a trail is necessary because of the failure of your spouse to be reasonable, the attorneys at Goldstein Law Group LLP are experienced trial attorneys that zealously represents our client’s interest to pursue the objectives of our clients and a result that is important to our client.
In general, alimony is paid to an ex-spouse by his or her former spouse for a specified period of years, or an unlimited duration, or until a certain contemplated event may occur which allows a dependent spouse to become fully or partially able to contribute to his or her own support (“rehabilitative alimony”). Such spousal support would typically be awarded to a financially dependent spouse in order to ensure that both former spouses continue to live a substantially similar quality of life (standard of living) following the end of their marriage. In New Jersey, alimony will not normally be awarded when each member of the former couple has a comparable earning capacity. Although it may feel that way, it is important to note that alimony is not designed to serve as a punishment or a reward for either member of the divorcing couple. It is important for you to know, as a current divorce litigant or if you are contemplating moving forward with a divorce in the future, what the statute in New Jersey directs as the factors which a court must consider in determining the myriad facts in a specific case before a definitive answer can be given to the following burning questions that most divorce litigants want to know almost immediately when they consult with us about a divorce:
To have a better understanding yourself, a look at the fourteen(14) statutory factors which the court is obligated to consider in making a determination as to alimony, is indispensable. We’ve made it easy for you. Here they are:
According to N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b), the factors a New Jersey court must consider when awarding spousal support include:
(1)The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
(2)The duration of the marriage or civil union;
(3)The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
(4)The standard of living established in the marriage or civil union and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living, with neither party having a greater entitlement to that standard of living than the other;
(5)The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
(6)The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
(7)The parental responsibilities for the children;
(8)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;
(9)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;
(10) 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;
(11) The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
(12) 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;
(13) The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite support paid, if any; and
(14) Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
It is by applying these 14 factors to YOUR case, with the knowledge of the case law from years and years of experience, that allows the experienced and knowledgeable family law attorneys at Goldstein Law Group to guide you and zealously, aggressively pursue your rights under this statute. As part of the process, we will review and answer your questions pertaining to the different types of alimony that exist in New Jersey.
WHAT IS OPEN DURATION ALIMONY IN NEW JERSEY?
Usually, under the new alimony statute passed into law by Governor Chris Christie back in September 2014, the newly established form of alimony now known as “open duration alimony” will only be awarded following a long-term marriage (now, finally set forth with a length under the statute – of twenty (20) years), and where the former spouses possess an unequal present and/or future earning capacity. Even if the original alimony award is called open duration alimony, such an award may still be subject to modification or termination if either spouse has significantly changed circumstances, such as remarriage (of the dependent spouse), disability (of either spouse), or retirement. In addition, a spousal support award may be altered as a result of the nonoccurrence of any circumstances the court expected to occur when the award was made. It is important to note that a former spouse may not collect alimony based on pension or retirement income the portion of which was treated as an asset for purposes of equitable distribution when the marriage ended.
WHAT IS LIMITED DURATION ALIMONY IN NEW JERSEY?
Under the new statute, “limited duration alimony” will generally be awarded where the marriage lasted for a period of less than 20 years; “LD”, as it is sometimes referred to, is awarded for a specific period of time – typically stated in years. Additionally, a limited duration spousal support award may not exceed the length of the marriage. Despite the time frame specified by the court, a term spousal support award may be reduced based on changed or other circumstances. A New Jersey court may not modify the length of the specified term except under “unusual circumstances.”
WHAT IS REHABILITATIVE ALIMONY IN NEW JERSEY?
Rehabilitative alimony is designed to provide support to a financially dependent former spouse while he or she enrolls in a training or education program in order to make the individual more employable. A rehabilitative spousal support obligation must be based upon a plan that outlines specific steps and a time frame during which rehabilitation will occur. Like other types of spousal support, a rehabilitative alimony award may be modified based on changed circumstances or the nonoccurrence of circumstances that the court expected to occur at the time of the award.
WHAT IS REHABILITATIVE ALIMONY IN NEW JERSEY?
Reimbursement alimony is typically ordered where one former spouse provided financial support to the other in order to allow the supported spouse to pursue an advanced degree. Such a spousal support award is designed to allow the supporting spouse to share in the fruits of any increased earning capacity that results. Unlike other types of alimony, reimbursement support may not be modified for any reason.
Confused? If so, that wouldn’t be surprising! It’s complex stuff! Can you do it yourself, without a lawyer? Yes, the law does NOT require you to have a lawyer in an divorce case to decide issues of alimony. We believe it could be fool-hearty to attempt this on your own. The laws, both the procedural and substantive laws about alimony, are complex. A mistake made now by choosing to represent yourself without a working knowledge of these laws, or by selecting the wrong counsel, can have a devastating, long term effect on you. If you would like to seek or defend a motion or application to modify the terms of your alimony award, or represent you in a divorce case which includes the issue of alimony, you need a veteran New Jersey family lawyer on your side. The knowledgeable attorneys at Goldstein Law Group have the experience and ability needed to help you achieve a workable result. To speak with a skillful family law advocate about your situation, call Goldstein Law Group at 732-967-6777 or contact us online today.
More Blog Posts:
New Jersey Father’s Child Support Obligations Upheld Despite His Incarceration, April 2, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog
New Jersey Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Decision Refusing to Order Permanent Alimony Where Former Spouses Earned Comparable Wages Throughout Marriage, March 31, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog
Photo Credit: theswedish, freeimages