If you are going through a divorce (or if you are already divorced), you may believe that alimony (aka spousal support) is the third unavoidable fact of life after death and taxes. While alimony is certainly common, it is by no means a certainty. New Jersey courts weigh a series of factors to determine whether alimony is appropriate, and certain factors count more than others. If you are hoping to limit your alimony payments or avoid paying alimony altogether, it is important to understand the law underlying alimony. Read on for a discussion of how alimony is calculated in New Jersey, and reach out to a seasoned Englewood alimony lawyer for help with a New Jersey family law matter.
Prenuptial agreements can help
The first and best way to avoid alimony in the event of divorce is to plan ahead before marriage. Prenuptial agreements can establish various terms of how marital finances will be allocated in a divorce, including the division of property and alimony. Your prenup, if valid, can presumptively establish the amount of alimony in the event of divorce or even declare that neither party will owe alimony regardless of the parties’ financial circumstances. Prenups can, however, be invalidated. A court can throw out a prenup if there is reason to doubt its legal validity (e.g., if it was signed under duress or fraud, or without legal counsel), or if a court determines that it is too one-sided and unconscionable, such as if there are terms that cause unnecessary financial hardship or set personal conditions regarding appearance, sexual acts, or other private behaviors.
Calculating alimony in New Jersey
Assuming you did not contract out of alimony in a prenup, alimony is still not certain. New Jersey courts evaluate 14 statutory factors to determine whether alimony is warranted and how much is appropriate. These factors include things like the duration of the marriage, the actual need for financial support, the paying party’s ability to pay, and the age, physical and emotional health of the parties. The court will also look to the standard of living established during the marriage and whether each party can reasonably maintain a similar standard of living with or without financial support.
Depending on the court’s evaluation of the factors, the judge may issue one of three types of alimony at the conclusion of divorce: limited duration, rehabilitative, or reimbursement. Limited duration alimony is meant to be a short-term arrangement to help a spouse who needs assistance in achieving financial stability. The payments may continue, for example, until the recipient looks for a new job or finds a new place to live, and there is a set end date.
Rehabilitative alimony is similar to limited duration but is ordered when more is needed to put the receiving spouse in a position to no longer rely on alimony. For instance, they may require support while they pursue education and training to get their career going. Once they get back on their feet and are able to maintain their household without support, alimony should cease.
Reimbursement alimony applies when one spouse has clearly sacrificed their life, finances, or career for the other spouse. The spouse seeking alimony may have, for example, supported the family while the other spouse earned their medical degree. They may have quit working to raise the children. At the time of divorce, they would then seek reimbursement for their “investment” of time, money, and career advancement in their spouse and their family.
How to challenge alimony in New Jersey
If you are seeking to avoid or end alimony payments, then it is important to establish either that the marriage was of very short duration, that your spouse does not actually need alimony to support themselves, or that paying alimony would create financial hardship for you. While other factors weigh in, these factors can be the strongest; the court will look to the financial needs and disparities of the couple as they work to establish separate households. You may be able to point out that the spouse seeking alimony has another source of income, such as a trust fund, inheritance, or another romantic partner.
How property is split up may also have an effect on the alimony determination: If your spouse gets control of a good amount of property or funds, or a steady source of income, then they may not need alimony. Your dedicated New Jersey divorce attorney can help you make the strongest arguments regarding alimony, including by identifying and valuing all sources of income applicable to both you and your spouse.
Call Herbert & Weiss in Englewood for Help with Alimony in a New Jersey Divorce
For seasoned and talented legal help with a New Jersey alimony dispute, custody battle, or other family law issue, contact the Englewood family law attorneys Herbert & Weiss at (201) 500-2151.