Bergen County Alimony Lawyers
Assistance with Spousal Support in New Jersey
The alimony lawyers in Bergen County from Herbert & Weiss, LLP are experienced, knowledgeable, and aggressive legal representatives who are prepared to fight for their client’s rights and interests in every aspect of their care, including terms of any alimony payment which may be negotiated or litigated.
Contact Herbert & Weiss, LLP today to schedule a consultation with a member of our Bergen County alimony attorneys.
What Is Alimony in New Jersey?
Alimony, also known as spousal support or maintenance, is a court-ordered payment from one ex-spouse to the other following a divorce. The idea behind alimony is that the spouses as a couple achieved a certain standard of living, and alimony can be used to balance the parties’ earning capacity and allow each spouse to continue that standard of living separately. While recipients once had the option of receiving permanent financial support from a former spouse, changes to the law mean that this is rarely the case any longer. Changing tax laws have also changed how alimony impacts both paying and receiving spouses.
More than ever before, it’s critical to have a seasoned family law attorney representing you during a dispute over spousal support. The experienced family law attorneys at Herbert & Weiss, LLP have been representing spouses who both anticipate paying and receiving alimony. Being represented by seasoned lawyers like Herbert & Weiss, LLP ensures that the court is presented with well-argued and robust evidence advocating for your interests.
What Are the Requirements for Qualifying for Alimony?
In order for one spouse to be eligible to receive alimony from the other, there must first be a divorce or legal separation. Once that occurs, the spouse seeking alimony (the "dependent" spouse) must demonstrate that he or she is unable to support him- or herself. This may be due to a discrepancy in earnings, as when one spouse has been out of the workforce for an extended period of time. Alternatively, it may be due to a physical or mental disability that prevents the dependent spouse from working. If the dependent spouse is able to work, he or she must show that alimony is necessary in order to maintain the same standard of living that was enjoyed during the marriage.
Types of Alimony in New Jersey
Divorcing spouses in the state were once able to apply for permanent alimony that would last until the receiving spouse remarried. Now, New Jersey law has done away with what was once called “permanent” alimony and places firm limits on when courts will award long-term alimony.
These are the types of alimony that may be awarded in a New Jersey divorce:
- Open duration – This is the longest-term alimony available under New Jersey law. Open duration alimony is only available when the marriage lasted 20 years or longer, and the spouses have a substantial disparity in earning capacity. Open duration alimony will be terminated when the receiving spouse remarries or cohabitates with a new partner, and it can also be terminated or reduced when the paying spouse reaches the federal retirement age of 67.
- Limited duration – When the marriage was less than 20 years long, the court can award alimony for the length of time it would reasonably take the recipient to improve his or her earning capacity to a level where alimony is no longer appropriate. However, limited duration alimony may not last longer than the marriage itself. In other words, if a marriage lasted ten years, the award of alimony would be limited to a length of ten years or less.
- Rehabilitative – Rehabilitative alimony is based on a plan where the recipient shows what steps will be taken and the time frame that will be needed to adjust to a new situation and get established financially.
- Reimbursement – This type of alimony is appropriate where one of the spouses supported the other to get an advanced education or specialized job training, with the anticipation that it would lead to an enhanced earning capacity for the benefit of the family.
The court also has the authority to award pendente lite alimony, which is temporary support during the divorce proceedings. This alimony can include requiring one spouse to pay a retainer for expert and legal services for the other spouse. The court can make one spouse pay for the legal fees of the other based on financial circumstances and good or bad faith of the part of either spouse.
How Is Alimony Calculated in New Jersey?
In any divorce or dissolution, the judge has the authority to order one spouse to pay an amount of financial support to the other spouse. Recent changes to alimony law instruct courts to consider evidence regarding 14 factors in the statute, considering these factors equally unless the judge issues a written opinion explaining why one factor held more importance than another in their decision. The judge does have some discretion in determining how these factors apply, making representation by a seasoned family law attorney of great importance in achieving your desired outcome.
These are the factors that courts will consider:
- The need and ability of the spouses to pay
- The length of the marriage or civil union
- The age of the spouses and their current physical and emotional health
- The standard of living that the spouses established during the marriage and whether they can likely maintain a comparable standard
- The spouses’ earning capacity, skills, level of education, and employability
- How long the spouse seeking support has been out of the workforce
- How the spouses have divided responsibility as parents
- How much training the spouse seeking support would need to find employment, how available that training is, and how much they would stand to earn
- Each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, whether financial or not and the degree to which each spouse interrupted their career or education to care for the children of the marriage
- How the property was divided and whether payouts were made toward equitable distribution with current income
- What income is available to the spouses through assets they hold
- What the tax consequences of alimony payments would be
- Whether and in what amount a spouse received pendente lite support (i.e., spousal support before the divorce was finalized)
- Other relevant factors determined by the court
The court can consider a variety of income sources, including pension benefits, although if a pension plan or other retirement benefit was divided in the property settlement, it shouldn’t also be considered as income for the paying spouse in determining alimony payments. With the use of forensic experts where necessary, along with investigators and other tools, we can help make sure that spousal income is fairly and accurately determined.
Recent changes in tax implications for alimony payments have also had an impact on the amounts that courts will award in spousal support. As of January 2019, alimony payments are no longer deductible on federal tax returns and will no longer be considered taxable income for support recipients. However, state taxes still allow alimony payments to be deducted. You can discuss how alimony will affect your tax obligations with your attorney before agreeing to a spousal support arrangement.
How to Reduce Alimony Payments in New Jersey
In the state of New Jersey, alimony payments can be reduced or even terminated if the payee spouse remarries or lives with a new partner. However, alimony can also be terminated if the paying spouse can show that their financial circumstances have changed significantly. For example, if the paying spouse has lost their job or suffered a major income reduction, they may be able to reduce their alimony payments. If you are seeking to reduce your alimony payments, it is important to consult with an experienced Bergen County alimony lawyer who can help you navigate the process.
When Can Alimony Be Modified in New Jersey?
While alimony is typically finalized during the divorce process, there may be circumstances where alimony needs to be modified. At a broad level, alimony can be modified when a court finds that there are “changed circumstances” sufficient to warrant a modification of the alimony. Modifying alimony in New Jersey is not, however, a straightforward process. It is up to the judgment of the family court, and they do not have clear guidelines as to what qualifies as a sufficient change in circumstance.
If you are seeking a modification of alimony in New Jersey, you will need to file a motion with the court and prove that there has been a substantial change in circumstances. An experienced Bergen County alimony attorney can help you navigate the process and ensure that your rights are protected.
Case law in New Jersey has provided a handful of situations that might (but may not always) merit modification of an alimony award. These situations include:
- Increase in the cost of living
- Increase or decrease in the paying spouse’s income
- Subsequent employment by the receiving spouse, or some other significant increase in income
- Illness, disability, or other infirmities that arise after the judgment
- Cohabitation of the recipient with another partner
- Changes in federal income tax law
If a court determines that a sufficient change in circumstance may have occurred, then the court will order a hearing and financial disclosures to determine if an increase is equitable and fair according to the law.
Recipient’s Income Increases
Alimony determinations are made at the time of divorce based on the financial circumstances of the parties at that time and by looking at the lifestyle of the parties during the course of their marriage. If the dependent spouse suddenly gets a new job or a massive raise, the paying spouse may seek to modify the alimony award. This is not always an easy prospect, and courts can go either way as to whether an increase in income merits a change in circumstance and how much of an increase is necessary to permit a modification.
Payor’s Income Increases
If the payor suddenly comes into a new source of money, the alimony recipient may wish to increase the alimony award. Courts, however, will not modify an alimony award simply because the payor is making more money. The recipient must show a need for increased alimony, based on changed circumstance.
Cohabitation of the Recipient
If the dependent ex-spouse “cohabitates” with a new partner, then the supporting spouse may have grounds to end alimony payments. The dependent spouse does not need to fully remarry to trigger this change in circumstance. Rather, if the cohabitation indicates a change in financial circumstance for the dependent spouse, the law does not require that a supporting spouse continue paying alimony for the benefit of a third party.
Seek Experienced Legal Representation for Spousal Support
Given the broad discretion the judge has in awarding alimony, it is crucial to be well-represented in the divorce process, whether you are seeking to receive alimony or being asked to pay. You will want to make sure the judge has an accurate picture of the factors to be considered and that your rights and interests are being adequately considered in the final decision. Herbert & Weiss, LLP has a reputation both as aggressive litigators and persuasive negotiators. Our Bergen County alimony attorneys know which factors are most important to influence an alimony award, and we know how to prepare and present a compelling case.
For additional information on alimony in Bergen County, please read our blogs:
Call us at (201) 500-2151 to learn more about your options for spousal support. Our Bergen County alimony lawyers are here to help.
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