If you are considering a divorce or dissolution of a civil union, or are already in the midst of one of these proceedings, you may be wondering whether or not alimony (also known as “spousal support”) will be an issue in your case. Because New Jersey law provides for several different types of alimony, determining whether or not one or more of these types is appropriate in any individual case can be a complicated process. In some cases, more than one type may be appropriate. Some types of alimony can be combined for varying periods of time.
New Jersey courts base spousal support awards on various factors. These alimony and spousal support factors are set out in detail in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b). This statute was revised in September of 2014. Among other changes, the revision imposed new durational limits on alimony awards and set out factors for a court to consider in determining whether or not “exceptional circumstances” exist to justify deviating from those limits. Other changes include greater specification of circumstances under which alimony can be terminated or modified in amount or duration. The changes to the law apply only to judgments, orders, and enforceable agreements dated after September 10, 2014.
The following is a brief overview of the different types of alimony available under the reformed New Jersey alimony law:
Types of Alimony in New Jersey
- Pendente lite alimony. Courts can award pendente lite alimony, also known as temporary alimony, early in the divorce process in an effort to maintain each spouse in the same financial position that existed prior to the divorce (the status quo). There is little or no emphasis on factors that may come into play later in the process, such as each spouse’s future ability to earn or the potential impact of marital property distribution. Alimony pendente lite terminates automatically once a divorce is final. It may be replaced by one or more of the other types of alimony.
- Open durational alimony. In September of 2014, the New Jersey legislature replaced the term “permanent alimony” in the alimony statute with the term “open durational alimony.” Although permanent alimony was once common, in recent years courts typically awarded it only when a supported spouse ending a long-term marriage was unlikely ever to be able to become fully self-supporting at the marital standard of living. Like permanent alimony, open durational alimony has no predetermined fixed ending date; unlike permanent alimony, however, unless exceptional circumstances exist, a court can order open durational alimony only after a marriage of at least 20 years. Also unlike permanent alimony, open durational alimony is presumed to end when the paying spouse reaches full retirement age (although this presumption can be rebutted under certain circumstances).
- Limited duration alimony. This type of alimony is also sometimes called durational alimony or term alimony, because it provides for payments to be made for a specified number of months or years. Like open durational alimony, alimony of limited duration is intended to help a supported spouse become self-supporting at the marital standard of living; unlike open durational alimony, however, limited duration alimony has a predetermined ending date. Before September of 2014, courts would generally choose to award limited duration alimony rather than permanent alimony after “intermediate length” marriages, which generally meant marriages of up to about 10 to 15 years in length (depending on other factors). Since September of 2014, however, open durational alimony (which replaced permanent alimony) is generally available only after marriages of at least 20 years, and if a marriage lasted less than 20 years, limited duration alimony cannot exceed the length of the marriage, except in exceptional circumstances.
- Rehabilitative alimony. Just as the title implies, this type of alimony has the purpose of rehabilitating a spouse who needs financial support to reintegrate into the workforce. Courts order rehabilitative alimony for a specific period of time to help a lower earning spouse obtain tools necessary to become self-supporting. It may cover costs of education, training, and living expenses during the reintegration period.
- Reimbursement alimony. This type of alimony reimburses one spouse for financial contributions to the education or career advancement of the other. Although reimbursement alimony can be combined with either limited duration or permanent alimony, it is more common when there is little basis for either of these other alimony types, because, for example, the marriage was too brief, or the marital standard of living was relatively low while the supported spouse was attending school. The spouse who contributed financially to education or training that both spouses expected to benefit from in the future is entitled to repayment of contributions. Reimbursement alimony can include tuition and costs of living expended by a student spouse, as well as any other costs related to obtaining a degree or training.
Alimony Case Studies
While it can be helpful to see what courts have done in cases similar to your own, remember that there is no such thing as certainty in alimony predictions. Individual judges take different factors into account and results can be unexpected. Our alimony case studies may give you some idea of what kind of factors a court is likely to consider in your case in situations such as the following:
- Permanent Alimony (under the law prior to September 2014): Long-Term Marriage with Stay-at-Home Parent
- Open Durational Alimony (under the law as reformed in September of 2014): Long-Term Marriage with Stay-at-Home Parent
- Limited Duration Alimony: Intermediate Length Marriage with Higher-Earning Wife
- Limited Duration Alimony: Intermediate Length Marriage with Two Working Parents
- No Alimony: Shorter Marriage with Equal Earning Power
Alimony is an issue that can impact your financial situation for many years into the future. To discuss your situation at a free initial consultation, contact us. We are here to help.