What is Alimony?
Alimony is a legal obligation one spouse has to provide financial support to the other spouse, either during a marital separation, or after a divorce. Not surprisingly, the award of alimony is also the cause of significant disputes between divorcing spouses. The questions of who will pay, how much will be paid and how long the payments will last can create tensions, anger and frustration. It is extremely beneficial to have the calming, experienced presence of an attorney from the Williams Law Group during these difficult negotiations.
Our attorneys have handled literally hundreds of alimony cases, skillfully navigating the New Jersey court systems, working hard for a favorable outcome for our clients. We have the knowledge and compassion, to walk you through the process of alimony, as well as many other issues related to divorce. If there are existing disparities in incomes between you and your spouse, we will address those disparities assertively.
Alimony Once Tied to Marital Misconduct
Many years ago—prior to the no-fault divorce—spousal support was often tied directly to marital misconduct. This meant that the “guilty” spouse—the one who presumably broke the matrimonial bonds—was made to pay alimony as a punishment. Since those times, most states have moved away from the idea that alimony is a right, yet in many cases spousal support is the last piece of the divorce “puzzle,” after asset division and child support. States vary significantly in the awarding of alimony.
As an example, the state of Florida is one of the few states which still awards permanent alimony on a fairly regular basis—although New Jersey and some other states do so under limited circumstances. The state of New Jersey recognizes that sometimes one spouse may need financial support from the other, known as alimony or spousal support. This alimony is meant to allow the supported spouse to maintain a lifestyle which is roughly the same as what the couple had during their marriage—at least until that spouse can become self-supporting.
Under New Jersey law, there are five types of alimony which are recognized. These include:
1. Low-earning or unemployed spouses may be eligible to receive temporary alimony which will help cover basic expenses during the divorce, particularly a divorce which seems as though it will be long and drawn out.
2. If a spouse has a serious financial need, and it will take some time to obtain employment and become self-supporting, then the judge may award limited duration alimony. There will be a specific end-date with this type of alimony, and the spouse receiving limited duration alimony will be expected to become self-supporting during the allotted time.
3. Those who have been married for a considerable length of time—particularly a spouse who gave up his or her own career or educational opportunities to further a spouse’s education or career, or those who gave up a career or education to care for a family—may be awarded permanent alimony after the court examines the factors listed below.
4. If one spouse requires training and/or education to become self-supporting, the court may award rehabilitative alimony. There is a specific time frame for this type of alimony, and the requesting spouse is required to submit the steps he or she intends to take to become self-supporting.
5. Finally, if one spouse supported another through his or her advanced education, fully expecting to enjoy the fruits of that labor, then that spouse could be entitled to reimbursement alimony, which would compensate for the “lost” years of reaping those rewards due to the divorce. This might be true if a spouse worked for a decade or more putting the other spouse through medical school, expecting to enjoy the life a surgeon’s salary would provide, then the now-educated spouse filed for divorce before that life could begin.
Factors Involved in the Award of New Jersey Alimony
The judge in the divorce case will look at a number of factors when determining whether to award alimony to one spouse. These factors include the following:
- How long the marriage has lasted;
- The age and physical and emotional health of each spouse;
- The requesting spouse’s actual need;
- The paying spouse’s ability to pay;
- The couple’s standard of living while married;
- The parental responsibilities of each spouse;
- The financial contributions of each spouse to the marriage;
- The non-financial contributions of each spouse to the marriage;
- The income of each spouse;
- The earning capacity of each spouse;
- Consideration of any type of domestic violence which occurred during the marriage;
- Tax consequences to each spouse if alimony is awarded;
- The education level of each spouse;
- The employability of each spouse, and
- The time and expense necessary for the requesting spouse to obtain training or education sufficient to become self-supporting.
Although some states have alimony “calculators,” or specific guidelines, in the state of New Jersey, the judge will make a determination on the award of alimony, based on the factors listed above.
Will You Receive Alimony?
If one spouse obviously has the financial means to pay alimony, while the other has few job skills, and will find it difficult to make even a marginal living, then temporary alimony, or another type of alimony may be awarded to the spouse who shows need. However, even if one spouse desperately needs alimony payments, if the other simply does not have the financial means to pay, then it is not likely to be awarded. One other potential factor associated with whether marital dissipation of assets can be clearly shown. As an example, if one spouse spent a significant amount of money on an extramarital affair, while the spouse engaging in the affair will not be punished for the affair per se, he or she may be hit financially if it is shown marital assets were dissipated.
Getting the Help You Need from the Williams Law Group
Having an attorney from the Williams Law Group by your side from start to finish can truly change the dynamics of your divorce. Our attorneys are with you for the duration—we will never leave you hanging or feeling unprotected. Our job is to ensure your divorce causes the least negative outcomes possible, and we will work hard to protect your rights. The attorneys at the Williams Law Group believe you deserve a solid advocate, and we want to be the person in your corner who truly cares.