New Jersey Supreme Court Rules Open Durational Alimony Awards Must be Based on Statutory Factors

piggy-bank-on-money morguefile financeWill my spouse be entitled to permanent alimony if we divorce after 15 years of marriage?

Since September 2014, the term “permanent alimony” became a thing of the past.  Now, in New Jersey, it has been  replaced with the phrase “open durational alimony.”  Currently, a family court must first determine whether open durational alimony is merited before considering other types of spousal support, such as limited duration or rehabilitative alimony. Although there is no bright-line rule regarding what constitutes a long-term marriage, the September 2014 amendments to New Jersey law now state a spousal support award may not exceed the length of a couple’s marriage if the union lasted less than 20 years, except in certain exceptional cases.

The length of a couple’s marriage is not the only factor a court will consider when determining spousal support following a divorce. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently issued a unanimous decision stating all of the statutory factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) must be considered when determining the duration of an alimony award. According to the court, the length of a former couple’s marriage is only one factor to consider when deciding spousal support. The recent high court’s decision overturned an Appellate Division ruling that permanent alimony was required following a marriage lasting 15 years.

In the case, a woman with a graduate degree stopped working in order to care for the couple’s three children. When the couple decided to divorce nearly 15 years later, the woman’s husband earned a salary of more than $1 million per year. Despite the length of the parties’ marriage, a family court determined that permanent alimony was not merited in the case based on the factors enumerated in the statute. According to the court, the couple was well-educated and relatively young, and the length of the marriage was not long enough to warrant such a spousal support award. As a result, the family court ordered that the wife receive a monthly alimony payment of $18,000 for a period not to exceed 11 years.

The Appellate Division reversed and ordered the lower court to reconsider its decision. The court stated the length of the couple’s marriage was not short term, and the limited duration spousal support award should be re-evaluated. The New Jersey Supreme Court then rejected the Appellate Division’s creation of a bright-line alimony rule based on the length of a couple’s marriage.   Although the case was initially filed before the 2014 amendments took effect, it provides useful guidance regarding how New Jersey law must be applied by a court when considering a request for alimony payments.

For helpful guidance regarding your divorce, alimony, or other family law questions, give the knowledgeable New Jersey family law attorneys at Goldstein Law Group a call today at 732-967-6777 or contact our experienced lawyers through our website.

Additional Resources:

Capitol Report: NJ Supreme Court: No Bright-line Duration Rule for Permanent Alimony Awards, New Jersey Law Journal

More Blog Posts:

Separation and Divorce in New Jersey, August 1, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog

Effective Co-Parenting Following a New Jersey Divorce, July 31, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog

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