Each party following a divorce, by virtue of New Jersey matrimonial law, has a right to live in a manner reasonably comparable to the standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage. That phrase is a general term because the analysis is much more complex. While a party may have the right to live in a manner comparable to the standard of living, the question is to what extent and for how long. Likewise, while each party has that right, it may not be realistic given the marital economic framework.
Recently, the New Jersey legislatures signed into law a modification of previous alimony laws which now recognizes that both parties (the supporting spouse and the supported spouse) have a right to enjoy a standard of living comparable to that which was enjoyed during the marriage. In most cases, alimony is one of the more acrimonious issues that arise. Often, the actual income earning or earning capacity of each spouse is unequal. The spouse that earns more often feels as though an alimony award is a penalty for having been ambitious and hard working. The spouse that earns less or is unemployed often feels as though they are not getting enough credit for having supported the family structure and the other spouse during their employment or professional career. It requires experienced skillful matrimonial attorneys to analyze the history of the marriage and the contributions by each spouse along with the standard of living that existed throughout the marriage, and the economic needs and obligations of each party to best determine and advise clients as to whether or not alimony is appropriate in the first place, and if so, to what extent and for how long.
If you are seeking a divorce, it is crucial that you speak to a highly skilled professional matrimonial attorney to properly advise you as to the impact alimony has in your case and to provide sound legal guidance to minimize any level of financial hardship following your divorce, whether you are the supporting spouse of the supported spouse.
How much Alimony should be paid?
One of the more highly contested issues in any divorce proceeding is how much alimony should be paid to the financially dependent spouse, if any, and for the length of time it is to be paid. There is no table or set formulation such as exists for the calculation of Child Support when determining the appropriate level of alimony. Rather, alimony is the result of many different factors to be considered by the court. The factors that can be considered in determining the amount of alimony to be paid are listed in the appropriate statute found at N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b). Those factors are enumerated below:
- The actual need and ability of the parties to pay
- The duration of the marriage
- The age, physical and emotional health of the parties
- Standard of living established during the marriage
- The earning capacities, education 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 require sufficient education or training
- The history of financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party
- The equitable distribution of property ordered and payouts on equitable distribution out of current income
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
Alimony can be classified as permanent alimony, term or limited duration alimony, which is alimony payable for a certain amount of time. Alimony can also be rehabilitative alimony to allow the supported spouse ample time to get back on his or her feet financially, or reimbursement alimony which can be awarded where one spouse made monetary contributions with the expectation that both parties of the marriage would derive an increased income and material benefit.