Alimony in New Jersey
Types of Alimony
In New Jersey, there are a few different types of alimony:
Limited-duration alimony. This is perhaps the most common type of alimony. Alimony is calculated for a set amount and a length of time. For instance, $20,000 per year payable for 5 years. Upon the 5th year, the alimony obligation will stop. The duration of the alimony award cannot exceed the length of the marriage if the marriage was less than 20 years.
Permanent alimony or open duration alimony. Permanent alimony, also known as open duration alimony, is calculated for a set amount, but there is no end date. The alimony obligation will continue until the payor (spouse paying alimony) dies. There are other reasons for the alimony obligation stopping before death, which will be covered below. Permanent alimony or open duration alimony can only be awarded for those marriages longer than 20 years.
Rehabilitative alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is normally used when a spouse has been out of the workforce for a long period of time. Rehabilitative alimony could be ordered to help the spouse through school or some kind of training to “rehabilitate” them back into the workforce to become a productive member of society again.
Reimbursement alimony. Reimbursement alimony is a means to pay back financial support that was provided during the marriage. For instance, suppose one spouse supported the other while they were going through school, then after they graduated and started a higher-paying job, they sought a divorce. The spouse that supported the other through school could seek reimbursement alimony for the support they paid to get the other spouse through schooling.
Pendente lite. Pendente lite support is used during a divorce. After a party files a Complaint for Divorce, the spouse seeking support can file for pendente lite support. If ordered, pendente lite support is meant to maintain the status quo of the marriage. The parties are both required to maintain the marital lifestyle as best they can until the divorce is complete. For instance, if one spouse was paying all the bills and then stops after divorce is filed, that spouse could be ordered to pay the bills under pendente lite relief.
How is Alimony Calculated?
In New Jersey, there is no set formula for calculating alimony or spousal support. Instead the courts weigh the following factors:
- The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
- The duration of the marriage or civil union;
- The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
- The standard of living established in the marriage or civil union and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living, with neither party having a greater entitlement to that standard of living than the other;
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
- The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
- The parental responsibilities for the children;
- The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
- The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage or civil union by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
- The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair;
- The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
- The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment; and
- The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite support paid, if any; and
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
Each of these factors are to be considered when calculating alimony. The Family Judge has discretion to weigh some factors more than others. Some factors may not even apply to the situation. After these factors are considered, the judge will set both an amount and a duration of the alimony or spousal support.
How is Alimony Enforced?
Alimony can either be court ordered or through agreement with the other party. Keep in mind, if alimony is made through an agreement and the agreement is filed with the Court (most cases), the agreement has the same legal weight as a court order. Therefore, in terms of enforcement, it does not matter whether the spousal support is a court order or an agreement.
Normally alimony is ordered or agreed in periodic payments. Examples are $100 per week, $200 every other week, or $400 per month. Alimony can be administered through the probation department of the county courthouse. Probation has the ability to garnish the payor’s wages to automatically pay and keep track of payments. This is a common mode of enforcement, as the person receiving alimony does not have to keep track of payments. Probation will notify the payor of missed payments.
If a situation arises in which a payor misses several payments, a judge has a variety of modes of enforcement including sanctions, modification of the order, or a missed-payment stipulation through probation. Most of the time it is a two-missed payment stipulation. This means that when a payor misses two payments, a bench warrant is automatically issued and the payor can be arrested. The payor will then be held until the next available judge, usually in a few days.
Can I Modify an Alimony Award?
Alimony awards can be modified either upward or downward. They can also be terminated prematurely. Generally, to request a modification, the person requesting the modification must show a significant non-temporary change in circumstances. This could be changes in income, medical issues, birth of a child, or relocation. If the changes are temporary, there may be temporary relief available, but most often the alimony award will not be modified.
Alimony can also be terminated or modified through retirement. However, the retirement must be in good faith. Usually, if the payor retires at or above the age they are eligible to receive Social Security, there is a presumption that the retirement was in good faith.
There are also considerations when examining a modification of alimony or spousal support by agreement. Sometimes agreements have exclusions to certain modifications that would ordinarily be available. A common term in Property Settlement Agreements (PSA) is an anti Lepis clause. If this clause is present, usually the alimony cannot be modified for things like changes in income.
Can I Deduct Alimony for Tax Purposes?
As of January 1, 2019, alimony awards after this date are no longer tax deductible. The recipient also does not have to report the alimony as income. However, if the alimony award was made prior to January 1, 2019, the payor can deduct the amount and the recipient must report it as income.
At Hark & Hark, we help clients with divorce, custody, domestic violence, child support, alimony issues and more. Alimony can be very complicated. It is also vital that you have an experienced attorney fighting for you to make sure that alimony is calculated properly. Once the initial alimony order or agreement is made, it is very difficult to change the award. Modifications for changes in circumstances and retirement are also difficult to seek and defend against. Do not leave yourself exposed. Contact us immediately if you have any questions or concerns about your financial situation.
We are reducing fees and working with clients to come up with manageable payment plans. Initial consultation is always free and we are available remotely. We represent clients in all towns in New Jersey including City Of Bridgeton, Commercial Township, Deerfield Township, Downe Township, Fairfield Township, Greenwich Township, Hopewell Township, Lawrence Township, Maurice River Township, Millville, Shiloh Borough, Stow Creek Township, Upper Deerfield Township, and Vineland.