How Do New Jersey Courts Decide Alimony?
Divorce is emotionally taxing. All at once you are called on to decide, seemingly immediately, the distribution of all of your assets and liabilities, in addition to considering the custody and parenting time of your children. can further escalate the stress. In New Jersey, alimony is determined by considering multiple factors. In this blog, we at Baker Legal Group LLC will give you and overview of how New Jersey courts approach and decide alimony. If you are going through a divorce where alimony is an issue the experienced attorneys at Baker Legal Group, LLC can help. Our attorneys have many years of experience in dealing with alimony issues in the New Jersey Family Courts. Contact our office to schedule a consultation to determine whether alimony is an issue in your divorce matter.
Understanding Alimony’s Purpose
Under the New Jersey Statute, the purpose of alimony is to provide the dependent spouse with enough money after the divorce to maintain a lifestyle that is ‘reasonably comparable to the marital lifestyle.’ In fact, the law in New Jersey is that BOTH spouses are entitled to enjoy the marital lifestyle. This goal is often difficult to achieve in practice.
Factors NJ Courts Consider
New Jersey courts don’t use a strict formula for alimony but instead evaluate several factors:
Need and Ability
The primary considerations in any alimony analysis are the dependent spouse’s financial needs and the supporting spouse’s ability to meet those needs. This requires a detailed examination of both parties’ monthly expenses, the nature of these expenses, and the income streams of both parties. The purpose of this analysis is to ensure that the support is fair.
Duration of the Marriage
While every marriage is unique, the length of the union often has a direct correlation with alimony decisions. A couple who has been together for decades will likely have more intertwined financial and personal ties. One spouse may have relied upon the other for support and placed themselves in a position where they cannot easily re-enter the workforce. On the other hand, a couple who was only together a few years may not have made any changes to their employment or financial expectations.
Age and Health
These aren’t just numbers on a page. A person’s age and health can significantly impact their ability to earn and support themselves. For instance, a spouse nearing retirement might have limited earning opportunities compared to someone in their 30s. Similarly, health issues can lead to increased medical expenses and reduced work capacity. Courts factor in these realities when deciding alimony.
Standard of Living
Post-divorce, the aim is to ensure neither party faces a drastic drop in their living standards.
Beyond current salaries, the court dives into what each party could earn. You may hear attorneys discuss “imputation of income.” This involves analyzing educational backgrounds, employment history, and inherent job skills.
Children’s needs don’t end with divorce. If one parent becomes the primary caregiver and this role impacts their ability to work full-time or pursue career advancements, the court will take note. The aim is to ensure that the children’s lives remain as stable as possible without financially penalizing the primary caregiver.
Property and Assets
The distribution that occurs during the divorce can influence the amount of alimony to be paid. Income generating assets are considered as part of income with respect to the need and ability to pay. Likewise, if one party assumes a greater share of debts, that would reduce their ability to pay.
Contributions to the Marriage
This is where the court looks beyond finances. Who managed the household? Who took care of the children? Did one partner support the other during their education or a career change? The court views marriage as a partnership where both financial and non-financial contributions hold value, ensuring that both forms of support are recognized in alimony decisions.
Types of Alimony in New Jersey
New Jersey recognizes 4 types of alimony:
● Open Duration Alimony: Typically awarded in cases involving longer marriages, permanent alimony has no set end date but can be revisited if circumstances change.
● Rehabilitative Alimony: This is alimony specifically designed to assist the supported spouse “rehabilitate” themselves, perhaps by completing their education or training to re-enter the workforce. Alimony terminates when the rehabilitation is complete.
● Limited Duration Alimony: This is alimony for a fixed period of time.
● Reimbursement Alimony: If one spouse supported the other through advanced education, expecting to reap the benefits in the future, they might receive reimbursement alimony.
Contact a New Jersey Family Lawyer Today
Courts have significant discretion in determining whether and how much alimony to award. Given the complexities involved, it’s wise to have legal counsel. The experienced attorneys at Baker Legal Group, LLC can help you evaluate alimony as your case proceeds in the New Jersey Family Courts. Contact our office to schedule a consultation to discuss alimony as an issue in your divorce matter.