New Jersey Court Upholds Arbitrator’s Decision Refusing to Order Permanent Alimony Where Former Spouses Earned Comparable Wages Throughout Marriage

In an Appellate Division case, a couple divorced in 2012 after 29 years of marriage. At the time, both spouses were in their late forties and their two children were grown and emancipated. Because the former spouses disagreed about the appropriate amount and duration of alimony, they chose to engage in binding arbitration over the issue.

During the course of the marriage, both spouses earned comparable incomes. Immediately prior to initiating divorce proceedings, however, the former wife lost her job. Because of this, she was enrolled in a technology institute and collecting about $525 in weekly unemployment compensation at the time of the arbitration hearing. At the hearing, the woman told the arbitrator she would complete her training in July 2013 and expected to be earning a larger salary than she previously received within two years.

The former wife sought $200 per week in permanent alimony due to the long-term nature of the former couple’s marriage. In a detailed order, the arbitrator stated he reviewed the 13 factors set forth in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b) before issuing an alimony award of $200 per week for a period of two years to the woman. According to the arbitrator, neither member of the former couple was financially dependent upon the other and the wife earned a larger income for a number of years. In addition, the limited duration spousal support order was based on the woman’s own statement that she should be earning a higher income than her former spouse within two years.

In response to the arbitrator’s decision, the former wife asked the family court to modify the arbitral award. After listening to testimony, the court denied the woman’s motion. The family court stated the length of the marriage was only one factor to be considered when determining spousal support. In addition, the court found that the former wife failed to provide it with any information that would indicate her unemployment status was not temporary. Because the woman was not financially dependent upon her former husband, the family court incorporated the arbitrator’s award into the couple’s final judgment of divorce.

On appeal before the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, the former wife argued the lower court provided too much deference to the arbitrator and claimed the limited spousal support award was based on a mistake of law. After stating its scope of review was limited, the Appellate Division found that the lower court did not make a clear mistake when it denied the former wife’s motion to modify the arbitrator’s award. The court then held a permanent alimony award was not appropriate under the circumstances. Because of this, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division affirmed the family court’s order incorporating the arbitrator’s limited duration alimony award into the former couple’s final judgment of divorce.

If you need to seek or defend a motion or application to modify the terms of your alimony award, are considering submitting your case to arbitration, you should contact a knowledgeable New Jersey family law attorney to assist you. There are pros and cons to arbitration, including limited rights to appeal an arbitrator’s decision.   The caring, knowledgeable  lawyers at Goldstein Law Group have the experience and ability needed to help you reach a workable result. To request a confidential consultation with an experienced, knowledgeable family lawyer, do not hesitate to call Goldstein Law Group today at 732-967-6777 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Lopez v. Lopez, NJ: Appellate Div. 2015

More Blog Posts:

Court Rules Plenary Hearing was Merited Following Request to Modify New Jersey Alimony and Child Support Obligations, March 12, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog

New Jersey Court Affirms Order Allowing Primary Caretaker to Relocate Couple’s Twins Out of State, March 5, 2015, New Jersey Divorce Lawyers Blog


Contact Information