Alimony is a sensitive and stressful issue with both sides often disputing what may be owed under the law. For spouses who may have limited education or job skills, or who left the workforce to raise children, it can be particularly difficult. They don’t want to be penalized because they made less money during the marriage and they worry because they may be less employable in the future than their spouse. New Jersey statutory law sets out guidelines for a court to use in establishing a fair and equitable amount of alimony. These 14 factors are intended to take into consideration each party’s individual circumstances – needs, ability to pay, health, employability – as well as the duration and contributions to the marriage. Alimony is not intended as a punishment or a reward. It focuses on helping the parties to maintain their lifestyle to a reasonable extent.
Among the 14 factors used to determine alimony are “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.” This is an important factor in recognition that spouses may have contributed to the marriage in different ways. A spouse who gave up working or schooling to raise children may not have been able to help pay the mortgage, but he/she did support the household in other ways and enabled the other spouse to pursue more work opportunities.
While the court will consider a spouse’s non financial contributions and time absent from the workforce, a stay-at-home spouse may very likely be expected to go back to work and help support himself/herself. The court will look at the spouse’s potential to earn income based on his/her age, health, prior education, work experience, length of absence from the job market and other factors.
The statute provides the court the ability to establish 4 different types of alimony: open durational alimony, rehabilitative alimony, limited duration alimony or reimbursement alimony. In the case where one spouse has an unequal present or future earning capacity in comparison to the other spouse, the first 2 types of alimony can be particularly helpful. Open durational alimony generally applies to marriages over 20 years in length. It has an open term until the court terminates it or the parties agree to terminate it based on a substantial change in circumstances. Rehabilitative alimony is intended to help the recipient prepare for and improve his/her employability, level of education and training.
If you are considering or facing a divorce, an experienced attorney can help you understand your options and advocate for a fair settlement. Contact us for a consultation to learn how we can help you get the best result in your case.
Learn more about our Alimony services.