The issue of alimony can be an emotionally charged subject and despite what anyone might tell you, or what you might of heard, there is no set formula to determine alimony in New Jersey. Instead, it is determined based on the analysis of your individual circumstances by the Judge assigned to your case. Because of this, the amount of alimony someone could be required to pay can vary significantly from county to county and Judge to Judge. It is very important that you have an experienced divorce attorney who is familiar not only with the laws of New Jersey but also is familiar with the Judges in the county where you reside.
Alimony in NJ
Not every case is right for alimony; and of those where alimony is appropriate, not everyone can expect to receive the same amount or for the same length of time. Instead, you must look at the facts of your individual case and apply the New Jersey alimony laws.
The first thing that must be decided is, if alimony is appropriate, what kind of alimony should there be? There are four kinds of alimony recognized in New Jersey, these are Open Duration Alimony, Rehabilitative Alimony, Limited Duration Alimony, and Reimbursement Alimony. Open Duration Alimony is usually seen in long marriages lasting more than 20 years where one of the spouses has demonstrated that they are economically dependent on the other and will never be able to support themselves in a comparable lifestyle to what existed during the marriage. Rehabilitative Alimony is usually awarded in short to mid-term marriages in which a former spouse could become self sufficient if they were able to go back to school or obtain some type of job training that will enable him or her to re-enter the workforce. Limited Duration Alimony, sometimes called “term alimony,” can be awarded in marriages lasting less than 20 years and in situations when a rehabilitative alimony award is not requested or appropriate. Finally, Reimbursement Alimony is intended to compensate one spouse who supported the other while he or she attended school or obtained training to enable them to increase their earning potential, only to have the marriage end shortly after the education or training was completed.
Once it is determined what kind of alimony may be appropriate, you then need to set the amount. There are numerous factors to be considered. These factors include a person’s need for support, the duration of the marriage, the age and health of the parties, the standard of living during the marriage, and the ability of the parties to earn an income and responsibilities to care for any children. How these factors are applied your individual circumstances and can have a dramatic impact on the amount of alimony you could expect to be awarded. Because if this it is very important that you have a lawyer who is experienced in alimony situations and who is familiar with the New Jersey alimony laws.
Modification of Orders
It is not uncommon of alimony awards to be reviewed after they are awarded, especially if the alimony is for a particularly long duration. Normally these reviews are triggered by allegations that a person who is receiving alimony is now living with someone or that either party has experienced a dramatic decrease or increase in their income. However, it is extremely difficult to obtain a modification if the other side is objecting. Because of this, it is important that you have a lawyer who is experienced in alimony litigation in New Jersey.
Unless you specifically agreed otherwise at the time of your divorce, alimony can be modified upon a showing of a “change of circumstances.” If either spouse’s income decreases then he/she can file a motion to ask the court to change the alimony obligation. However, the spouse must demonstrate that the decrease in income is not the result of any bad faith or wrongdoing on their part and is not a temporary situation. If the court concludes that the spouse is not making a good faith effort to find employment or that their current situation has not existed sufficiently long to be considered permanent, the request for the modification will likely be denied.
Because alimony is so fact specific, and so difficult to modify later, Ms. Friedland and Mr. Shauger will review all of the various factors and your individual finances to attempt to get you the best outcome. They will also take the time to explain to you how alimony is calculated in New Jersey and to make sure you understand exactly how any final duration or amounts were calculated in your case.
Alternatives in NJ
Alimony can be a very stressful subject to raise. For the person who is paying alimony, the amount will almost always seem to them to be exceedingly high and they are fearful that there will not be enough left to support themselves with. For the person who is receiving alimony, the amount they are getting will almost always seem to be too little and they will also be afraid that they will be unable live on what they are getting. This fear is only exacerbated when the ability to decide on the amount is taken out of their hands and placed in that of the Judge.
Rather than resign your financial future to someone else, you should consider the alternatives to alimony litigation. You always have the option to submit this issue to mediation or to participate in a collaborative divorce proceeding. Ms. Friedland is a trained Mediator and is trained in Collaborative Law in New Jersey.