Going through a divorce and need to make decisions about alimony? Here are some facts that you may not know about alimony and how it is dealt with in New Jersey Family Courts:
It’s really not called “alimony” anymore. Several years ago, the courts began using the terms “spousal support” or, sometimes, “spousal maintenance” rather than alimony. These are considered more modern terms and the change was to avoid confusion among jurisdictions that were using different terms for the same legal concept. In everyday conversation, we generally still use the term alimony, but in court documents expect to see spousal support being referenced.
You don’t have to be divorced, or even file for divorce, to receive support. If you are separated, you can still file for alimony if you need financial support from your spouse. In rare circumstances, spouses have filed while still living together, if one spouse is completely financially isolating the other, refusing to pay household bills or provide any support at all.
You don’t have to be married for a very long time to receive support. But, spouses in longer term marriages do have an easier time proving their case. However, if you were completely financially dependent on your spouse, and have no viable means to support yourself, even if your marriage was for a shorter time, you may still be eligible for alimony. It may just be for a very short duration, so you can get on your feet, perhaps get an education, and find your own means to support yourself.
There is no such thing as permanent alimony in New Jersey. The alimony statute was changed a few years back to eliminate “permanent” spousal support. Instead, ex-spouses making the payments can apply in most cases to have them end or be modified when they reach the federal retirement age of 67, unless a judge says otherwise. Also, in marriages lasting fewer than 20 years, the length of payments now cannot exceed the length of the marriage — unless a judge decides there are “exceptional circumstances.” For example, if you were married for seven years, you are not obligated to pay more than seven years of support.
Men and women ask for and receive spousal support. The age old notion that only women receive alimony from men, because the men are the breadwinners, is fading. Alimony laws are not written for women or men; they are gender neutral. Both husbands and wives have the same burden to prove to the court that they need financial support from their spouse.
If you are contemplating filing for spousal support or if your spouse has filed an application with the court asking that you provide them with financial support and you are unsure what to do, please contact us to schedule your initial consultation. Our attorneys are experienced in spousal support and all other family law matters in New Jersey.