Both during and after a divorce, one spouse may require financial support from the other; this financial support is known as alimony. Alimony allows the dependent spouse to maintain a lifestyle as close as possible to what the couple enjoyed during the marriage, at least until the dependent spouse is able to start supporting themselves.
In New Jersey, there are five types of alimony:
- Temporary Alimony: this is alimony awarded to a dependent spouse to help cover living expenses while the divorce is still pending.
- Limited Duration Alimony: this is awarded to the dependent spouse based on financial need and that lasts until the dependent spouse becomes self-supporting. The duration cannot exceed the length of the marriage, with limited exceptions.
- Open Durational Alimony: this is typically awarded to a dependent spouse after a long marriage of 20 years or more.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: this alimony is intended to help the dependent spouse get back on their feet and provide training and education for them to become self-supporting. The dependent spouse requesting rehabilitative alimony must provide the steps to be taken for rehabilitation and the time line for same.
- Reimbursement Alimony: this alimony compensates the dependent spouse who supported the other spouse through advanced education, and who expected to enjoy the fruits of that labor, but was not able to because of the divorce.
To calculate the length and amount of an alimony award, a court will look at the following factors:
- The dependent spouse’s actual needs and the other spouse’s ability to pay
- The duration of the marriage
- Each spouse’s age and health
- Each spouse’s income, earning capacity, education level, and employability
- The standard of living during the marriage
- Parental responsibilities
- The time and expense necessary for the dependent spouse to become self-supporting
- Each spouse’ contributions to the marriage (financial and non-financial)
Alimony awards can also be terminated or modified if there is a change in circumstances. A change in circumstances can include:
- Change in the income of the supporting spouse
- Retirement of the supporting spouse
- If the court made an order based on an event that it assumed would occur, but then the event did not occur
- Remarriage of the dependent spouse
- Death of either spouse
- Cohabitation of the dependent spouse
- Substantial post-judgment changes in circumstances of either spouse
Every divorce is different and, therefore, the amount of alimony potentially awarded can vary widely based on the specific circumstances of each case. Consulting an experienced family law attorney in the South Jersey area can ensure that alimony awarded is calculated in a manner that is not overly burdensome to the supporting spouse and fair to the dependent spouse.