Alimony, which is sometimes referred to as spousal support or maintenance, is defined as the obligation upon one spouse to provide financial support to his or her spouse before or after marital separation or divorce. Alimony payments are tax deductible to the payor and are deemed taxable income to the payee-recipient.
Several threshold factors are examined before alimony is considered. Is there an actual need for alimony; does one spouse have the ability to pay alimony if such a need exists, and for how long were the parties married or for how long did their civil union exist?
Depending upon the relevant facts of your matter, a Court could award one or any combination of the four types of alimony recognized in New Jersey: open durational, limited duration, reimbursement and rehabilitative alimony.
Open Durational Alimony (previously permanent alimony) is support which is generally payable until the death of either the payor or payee, the re-marriage of the payee-recipient, in some cases the cohabitation of the payee-recipient with an unrelated third party or a significant or substantial change in circumstances. The recent amendments to New Jersey’s alimony statute also creates a presumption that alimony payments will terminate upon the payor reaching retirement age, which at present is 67 years of age, though this can vary based upon a variety of circumstances.
Rehabilitative Alimony is a short-term award of support for a period of time to permit the recipient spouse to obtain a level of economic self-sufficiency. It would cease when the recipient/supported spouse is in a position of self-support. It represents an appropriate remedy for circumstances such as where a spouse relinquished or postponed his or her own career or education to support the household. In such instances, an award of rehabilitative alimony is intended to improve the earning capacity of the economically dependent spouse by meeting their needs such as obtaining additional education or training or the completion of their education.
Limited Duration Alimony is a form of limited spousal support for a specified purpose such as to financially assist an economically dependent spouse for a defined period of time. For a Court to award limited duration alimony it must first make the judicial determination that an award of open durational alimony is not appropriate based upon the circumstances. These awards are for a specified time-frame which may not be extended though the amount to be paid may be modified if there are changed circumstances during the period when payments are due.
Reimbursement Alimony is a relatively rare form of relief intended to compensate a spouse who made financial sacrifices during the marriage which resulted in a reduced standard of living and enabled the other spouse to forego gainful employment while completing or furthering their education, or obtaining a professional license with the mutual understanding that this would result in increased income and material benefits for the parties.
When deciding alimony claims our New Jersey statute requires the Court to consider, but not be limited by, the following factors:
- The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
- The duration of the marriage or civil union;
- The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
- 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;
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
- The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
- The parental responsibilities for the children;
- 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;
- 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;
- 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;
- The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
- 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;
- The nature, amount, and length of pendent lite support paid, if any, and
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
The Court is required to examine the above factors and any other information it determines to be relevant prior to making its alimony decision. The Court is authorized to decide whether or not an award of alimony is appropriate and the type of alimony to be paid. In so doing the Court determines the amount and duration.
New Jersey case law provides that both of the parties are entitled to continue to live at the economic standard which was established during the marriage. However, in most cases, it is financially impossible to maintain two households on the same amount of income which previously maintained one. The Court strives to order an amount which will permit each of the parties to continue to live at a standard reasonably comparable to that which they had during the marriage.