New Jersey Alimony and Spousal Support
When a couple divorces, there are many changes that each spouse must adjust to; especially losing the benefits of a dual-income household. For countless couples, as the marriage comes to an end, so too does the lifestyle they once enjoyed. In many cases, the marital breadwinner pays alimony to the spouse whose income and earning potential is below the standard of living the couple shared during the marriage.
New Jersey laws on alimony have gone through significant changes over the past few years. Former Governor Chris Christie passed legislation in September 2014 that replaced antiquated laws concerning spousal support. Most notably, a rule was enacted ending lifetime alimony. Provisions were also made for ending alimony if an ex-spouse was cohabitating with another partner or allowing payments to end when the payer reached the full retirement age of 67.
The new laws also take into consideration that women take up almost 50 percent of the American workforce, with one-third of them earning the primary income in the family. Armed with this knowledge, our New Jersey divorce lawyers help clients understand the rules that apply to their divorce, alimony, or spousal support claim.
Types of Alimony and Spousal Support
There are several different types of alimony and spousal support that can be awarded based on the couple’s earning capacity and income. The court has latitude when ordering alimony or spousal support as the state of New Jersey has not created a calculator or formula for such a thing.
Pendente Lite Support: This type of spousal support is not necessarily considered alimony, but it is meant to temporarily provide financial assistance while the divorce process takes place. Clients may request this type of support or provide it as part of the divorce proceeding to protect from any undue financial hardship. Unlike alimony payments, this type of support is not considered taxable income.
This level of support is often used to provide good faith effort to support the spouse losing the income. We can also move to discontinue this type of support if a lower amount of alimony is due after the divorce is finalized. In short, we ensure that alimony is handled properly because clients could lose money or be taken back to court.
Limited Duration Alimony: This type of alimony is most common in marriages that have lasted less than 20 years. New Jersey’s updated alimony laws dictate that this type of support cannot last longer than the marriage. The alimony settlement can also be adjusted if the financial circumstances of the payer have changed.
The updated laws allow changes to be made as soon as 90 days following unemployment, which is vastly different from the previous 12-month “rule of thumb” many judges employed. We have an understanding of how flexible the courts can be, and we will help clients understand how to make these changes. Clients may also request an amendment to the alimony order if an ex-spouse has since remarried, and we can petition to terminate payments if a client has reached the full retirement age of 67.
This type of alimony allows us to make quick changes if a client must alter the agreement. Likewise, it can be frustrating if a client receives too little alimony. We work with the courts to move quickly, obtain the support needed, and help reach an amicable resolution when alimony must change.
Permanent Alimony: The updated alimony laws in New Jersey put an end to permanent alimony that required a spouse in a long-lasting marriage to pay support to their ex-spouse until death. Now, this type of alimony can be revisited, modified, or ended when the payer reaches retirement age.
The payments can also be modified if the financial situation of the payer changes, specifically in cases of unemployment and disability. Clients may also petition to terminate alimony payments if an ex-spouse has remarried. We know that life can change at any time, and we will ensure clients file the appropriate paperwork. Because alimony is calculated using a range of factors, we will ensure that all factors are revisited.
Sadly, an ex-spouse may not confirm they remarried in the hopes of double dipping. These things, however, are a matter of public record. We can research their marriage license and show that they should no longer receive alimony or spousal support. If a client believes their permanent alimony should not be discontinued, we will show the court that they deserve to be paid in perpetuity. This is an important distinction because permanent alimony settlements reached before the law changed may not need to be altered.
Rehabilitative Alimony: Alimony that is awarded in this category is meant to provide temporary financial support to a spouse that needs to pursue educational or vocational training to increase their earning potential. The goal of rehabilitative alimony is to allow the lower income spouse the opportunity to become financially independent. Even if the spouse remarries during this period, the support may continue because their educational or vocational pursuits have not ended.
If a client believes their ex-spouse is not pursuing the educational or vocational goals that they used in their petition to obtain alimony during the divorce, we will petition to have those payments terminated. If an ex-spouse has reached their educational or vocational goals, a client can discontinue or alter the alimony payments to ensure clients are only paying when necessary. In extreme cases, an ex-spouse may continue to change their mind or alter their educational goals to receive alimony. We will petition to stop alimony payments in these cases.
Reimbursement Alimony: Couples often rely on one spouse to work while the other pursues education or training that will increase their earning potential. In the case of divorce, reimbursement alimony can be awarded to the spouse that provided financial support to their marital partner while they focused on education or training. Payments continue even if the spouse receiving the alimony remarried because the primary goal is repayment of debt. The judge determines how much a client should repay.
Our lawyers will help clients choose the form of alimony they believe is appropriate. Clients may have come to an amicable agreement with an ex-spouse, or they may want to fight their alimony petition because they believe they are being unfair. We have been on both sides of this issue, and we understand how to come to a resolution quickly.
Factors to Consider When Awarding Alimony
In a divorce proceeding, a judge will hear testimony from both spouses, then consider factors before settling on an alimony payment. We must also consider the following factors before petitioning for alimony or arguing against what a client believes to be an exorbitant or unfair alimony order:
- Age, as well as physical and emotional health of both spouses
- Actual need and ability to pay
- Cost and time allotment for education and training for a dependent spouse
- Earning potential, education, and income of each party
- Length of absence from the workforce
- Length of the marriage
- Monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage
- Equitable distribution
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Tax burden for both spouses
- Parental responsibilities for childcare
These factors help the judge understand each situation. Married couples, however, often forget that people outside their marriage cannot understand the dynamics of the relationship. Only the ex-spouses have a clear understanding of who went to school and work, and who looked after the children. The standard of living is also difficult to judge based solely on income, and the lifestyle that the children enjoy may be part of the plea for support.
The judge can order any sort of alimony they see fit, but we cannot argue for or against that judgement unless the client tells us everything we need to know. Lawyers are often surprised by information that is revealed in open court, and we do not want to be in that position. We will not pursue alimony or an adjustment in alimony payments until we have all the facts. We need to know:
- If each spouse had any specific arrangements that were unique to the marriage
- If each spouse entered into any verbal agreements that concerned a potential divorce
- If each spouse violated any verbal agreements made during the marriage
- If each spouse mentioned certain factors in the marriage that would change alimony payments or the decision to grant alimony
Explaining all sides of the story can help us build a case that allows our clients to pay or receive an appropriate amount of alimony or spousal support. We also work with clients who believe they should have received alimony when it was not awarded during their original divorce proceeding.
When to Consult a Divorce Lawyer
Temporary and long-term alimony can have a significant impact on the lifestyles and futures of both marital partners in the event of a divorce. It is imperative that both spouses consult an experienced divorce lawyer to protect their assets and provide a settlement that is fair. We will investigate each case thoroughly and question the dynamics that led to the divorce. We need to understand why clients believe they deserve alimony or why they should not pay too much. This is not a situation that clients should handle on their own.
We can also help clients create an agreement for temporary spousal support that will aid the ex-spouse as they move on with their life. Clients may not need to pay alimony after the divorce is finalized, and we will ensure that any temporary alimony is not suddenly made permanent outside the bounds of the law. Clients should also prepare for any impending life changes that will alter the alimony or spousal support payments.
Do not simply stop making payments because time is up. We will draft the documents necessary to help clients terminate or change payments based on unemployment, retirement, a move, remarriage, or other factors. Our experienced legal team knows how to help divorcing spouses reach alimony settlements that ensure their future income and earning potential are secure. We are committed to helping our clients fully understand the benefits and consequences of their alimony arrangements.
New Jersey Divorce Lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. Help Clients with Alimony and Spousal Support Settlements
The reputable team of New Jersey divorce lawyers at Lyons & Associates, P.C. is experienced in helping divorcing couples reach fair and equitable settlements. Call us at 908-575-9777 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today. With offices conveniently located in Somerville and Morristown, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout Somerset, Woodbridge, Morristown, Parsippany, Rockaway, Short Hills, Chatham, Randolph, Madison, and Morris Plains.