Understanding Alimony Rights and Obligations in New Jersey
“Alimony” refers to payments made by one former spouse to the other former spouse after a divorce. (Alimony is also called spousal support or spousal maintenance.) It’s designed to permit both former spouses to maintain, to the extent possible, the same standard of living they had before the divorce.Alimony is not designed to “punish” the paying spouse for bad behavior or to “reward” the recipient spouse for good behavior.
New Jersey has five basic types of alimony:
- Temporary alimony (alimony pendente lite) is for spouses who are unemployed or have low earnings, to help them cover their living expenses during a divorce.
- Limited duration alimony is awarded on the basis of a former spouse’s financial need, until that former spouse can become self-supporting.
- Permanent alimony is awarded after a long marriage if one spouse gave up his or her own career or educational opportunities in order to support the other spouse’s education or career, or in order to care for the couple’s children.
- Rehabilitative alimony is intended to help a former spouse receive the training and education needed to become self-supporting.
- Reimbursement alimony is awarded to compensate a spouse who supported a spouse receiving advanced education, such as a medical or legal degree, and who expected to benefit from the couple’s enhanced earnings as a result of that degree,
In determining whether to award alimony, how much, and for how long, a New Jersey family law judge will consider several factors.These include:
- the needs of the spouse requesting alimony, and the other spouse’s ability to pay;
- how long the marriage lasted;
- each spouse’s age and physical and emotional health;
- the couple’s standard of living during the marriage;
- each spouse’s education level, job training, and job skills;
- each spouse’s earning capacity;
- the parental responsibilities of each spouse;
- the time and money required for a dependent spouse to become self-supporting;
- each spouse’s financial and non-financial contributions to the marriage and to acquiring marital assets;
- the amount of marital property awarded to each spouse; and
- the existence of any income-producing assets.
Just as with child support , a court will consider a former spouse’s earning ability as well as his or her actual income. A court may base alimony payments on the paying spouse’s potential income, if that spouse is voluntarily unemployed or under-employed.
Unlike for child support , New Jersey has no specific guidelines for awarding alimony. Each judge can use his or her discretion based on the factors above.
Alimony may be modified or terminated if circumstances change or predictions do not become true. (See our page on Post-Judgment Modifications for modifications in general.) For example, if a dependent spouse was unable to complete job training or find a job in the allotted time, limited duration or rehabilitative alimony can be extended.If a former spouse receiving alimony remarries or enters into a New Jersey civil union, the other former spouse must be told about this.Remarriage or a civil union will terminate limited duration alimony or permanent alimony.Normally, rehabilitative and reimbursement alimony will continue to be due after a remarriage or civil union.
Alimony payments are tax deductible for the party that pays them and are taxable income for the party that receives them.
If you have questions about alimony, we invite you to contact our Hackensack, NJ office for a free initial consultation with one of our experienced New Jersey family lawyers.
Call us today at 201-345-5907 or send us an e-mail and let us help you with your New Jersey alimony issue.