alimony faqs

Spousal Support & Alimony FAQs

Spousal Support and Alimony FAQs: Whether you are the spouse who will pay alimony, or you are the spouse who will receive payments, if spousal support is on the table in your divorce, you probably have questions about the alimony determination process, and what you can do to ensure the fairest settlement possible. In this section, the attorneys of Weinberger Divorce & Family Law Group provide answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about alimony that we often hear from clients. Browse through and get answers to your questions.

Please note that our answers fall under New Jersey jurisdiction and may not apply to you should your family law or divorce legal issue be located out of the state of New Jersey.

What is Alimony?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is financial support that is provided to you by your former or soon-to-be former spouse. The courts look at many factors when deciding whether or not to award a spouse alimony, such as length of the marriage, the financial needs of the parties, the ability to pay the support and the length of time the parties have been separated, if they are indeed separated. You do not need to be divorced or even have a divorce filed with the court to ask for alimony. Of course, it is always up to the court whether or not you are awarded financial support, if you and your former partner cannot agree to it.

How are alimony amounts calculated?

In New Jersey, there is no set formula or equation that is used to determine the amount of alimony you may receive. Rather, the law provides a number of factors that the courts must consider when deciding if you should receive support. The law is complex with regard to these factors, so you should seek the advice of an attorney if alimony is an issue for you. Some of the factors that the courts consider are the need for support and the ability of the other person to pay it, the length of the marriage, the financial standard of living during your marriage, the parties’ job skills and earning ability as well as level of education, responsibilities for the children and the history of contributions you made to your marriage (both financial and non-financial, such as giving up going to college while your spouse pursued his or her education.) This law can be difficult to navigate, so consider consulting with an experienced attorney.

How long do you have to be married to receive or pay alimony in New Jersey?

Length of the marriage is one factor that the courts consider when deciding whether or not to award alimony, and for how long. However, there is no firm or set length of marriage in the law that automatically triggers an alimony obligation. It is important to note that if you were married for less than 20 years, New Jersey will not allow alimony to go on longer than the actual length of the marriage, unless there are exceptional circumstances such as chronic illness of the dependent spouse or whether or not the spouse in need is the primary caretaker of the children. Again, these are not all the factors, so be sure to consult with counsel regarding the factors that may affect the amount and duration of your spousal support.

How long do you have to be married to get permanent alimony in New Jersey?

There really is no such thing as “permanent” alimony in New Jersey after the new spousal support law went into effect just a few years ago. However, you may be entitled to what is now called “open duration” alimony, which really has no cap on time. In order to qualify for open duration alimony, you must have been married for at least 20 years.

How long does temporary spousal support last?

Like other alimony, there is no hard and fast rule when it comes to the duration of spousal support. When courts make decisions on how much and for how long alimony should continue, they look at the very specific facts of each case.

How is alimony taxed?

Unlike child support, alimony is considered income and is therefore subject to income taxes. If you receive alimony, you must claim it as income. The spouse paying the alimony is entitled to a tax benefit for the payments.

How is alimony enforced?

If you have been awarded spousal support, and your former spouse is not paying the support to you, you can file a motion to enforce your spousal support award with the court. This is known as a motion to enforce litigant’s rights and in that motion you can ask the court for a number of remedies, such as having all the money owed to you paid in one lump sum, having your ex-spouse’s wages garnished or having a warrant entered for his or her arrest. It is up to the judge to determine what sanctions or remedies to order.

How is alimony calculated if one spouse is unemployed?

This depends on the financial history of the marriage and of the parties, themselves. If one spouse is unemployed simply because they do not wish to work, then the court can calculate alimony based on what her or she earned before. This is called imputation of income. This is very fact sensitive, and the court will consider things such as how long the person has been out of the workforce, the level of the person’s education and experience, whether they have been a stay-at-home parent, and any disabilities that either spouse may have effects their ability to work.

How is alimony and spousal support calculated in New Jersey?

Alimony in the state of New Jersey is calculated not by formula. Most people think that you’re just going to come up with this equation and poof, you’re going to have this number, but that’s not how it works. Alimony in the state of New Jersey is determined based upon a significant number of statutory factors, some of which are the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, the health of the parties, earning capacities of the parties, your history of earnings, as well as your education histories, your degrees and so forth, childcare taking responsibilities. These are some of the elements that the court looks to in determining and considering what the actual alimony needs will be of one party, and how much the other party can actually, in fact, pay. So when you’re thinking about alimony, don’t think that you’re just going to sit down, punch a couple of numbers into a calculator, and come up with a magic number. That’s not how it’s determined. It’s much more intricate analysis than that.

I helped pay for my spouse through law school. We are going through divorce. What are my rights?

There are a number of types of alimony that any person can apply for when they are litigating their divorce. Many people don’t know that there’s actually a type of alimony called reimbursement alimony. You can ask for it separately or you can ask for that type of alimony in conjunction with any other type of alimony in combination. Reimbursement alimony is specific to this type of situation. It’s where you have one spouse who supported the other spouse while they were undertaking a higher education degree or other type of educational situation and they were increasing their earning capacity during that time. So it’s getting a medical license. It’s getting a law degree. It’s getting some type of skill or trade or other type of license that heightens their ability and earning capacity so that they can earn going forward to a greater degree. So that reimbursement alimony is supposed to essentially try to make you whole for the sacrifices that you made in order to assist the other spouse to follow their dreams and their goals of education and going ahead and getting that other license.

What happens to Social Security benefits during a divorce?

If you’ve been married for a period of at least ten years, you will likely be entitled to a 100% of your own Social Security benefits or 50% of the value of your spouse’s Social Security benefits. But the good news is, that 50% of your spouse’s Social Security benefits will not actually impact the benefit that your spouse will get from his or her own Social Security benefits. So they’ll still get a 100% of their own record.

Can I get spousal support and child support during our separation?

During separation — from the filing of a complaint for divorce up and to and including the filing of a judgment of divorce — many people are concerned with how they will continue to get by financially and how they will support their children. It’s important to know that temporary alimony (spousal support) and child support may be available to you during this time.

Temporary spousal support and child support can either be paid by consent of the parties through a simple consent order agreement or alternatively one party can apply to the court through a petition called a notice of motion. This is a formal application to the court to ask the court to enter a temporary order that obligates one party — usually the higher earning spouse — to supply some type of financial relief to the non-earning spouse or the lesser earning spouse and/or to their children. The courts view this relief as providing for a more level playing field throughout the entire divorce process. The amounts specified in these temporary orders may not reflect the amounts ultimately agreed upon in your final divorce settlement.

The Answers You Need

For answers to your specific questions about alimony, please call us today to schedule your free consultation. Our skilled and knowledgable divorce and family law attorneys can set you up with a strong legal strategy to help you achieve your goals. Secure your future.  Take the first step today. Talk to us:

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