Alimony in a New Jersey divorce, and the changes that could be coming

Marriage is an economic as well as a social relationship. Sometimes, when a marriage ends in divorce, one former partner is required to make payments to the other. These payments, known as alimony or spousal support, help to balance the standard of living enjoyed by the parties after divorce.

In New Jersey, there are a number of different types of alimony and a number of factors that go into setting any eventual alimony award. Changes may soon be coming to New Jersey's framework for determining alimony, however, as advocacy groups increasingly call for reform.

Types Of Alimony And Factors A Judge Will Consider In Making An Award

Currently, there are five types of alimony in New Jersey. Temporary alimony supports one spouse during the process of divorce; limited duration alimony supports a former spouse for a set number of years; rehabilitative alimony supports a former spouse through education or training needed to become self-sufficient; reimbursement alimony compensates a former spouse for supporting his or her partner through higher education; and, permanent alimony supports a former spouse indefinitely, typically for long-term marriages with significant income disparities between the parties.

Any combination of the different types of alimony may be awarded by a New Jersey judge. Judges have great discretion in making alimony awards, or in declining to award alimony. A judge may consider 13 factors, some of the most important being:

• Length of the marriage

• The paying spouse's financial resources and the recipient spouse's actual needs

• The standard of living established during the marriage

• The age and health of each of the parties

• The income and earning potential of each party

One factor that is not considered in an alimony award in New Jersey is marital fault. In other words, fault, such as adultery, is not relevant in setting an alimony award.

Groups Call For Alimony Reform In New Jersey

With a number of nearby states having already enacted dramatic reforms to take spousal support into the 21st century, many in New Jersey are clamoring for reforms to the state's alimony laws. Advocacy groups are asking for an end to permanent alimony as well as a less discretionary framework for setting alimony awards that would mean more standardized and consistent results for similarly situated parties.

Advocacy group New Jersey Alimony Reform has circulated numerous alimony horror stories of former spouses who have struggled to keep up with excessive alimony obligations, even as recipient former spouses use alimony payments to fund opulent, leisurely lifestyles.

On the other hand, opponents of alimony reform measures say that removing discretion from judges would hinder the ability to take a couple's individual circumstances into account when ordering alimony, resulting in "cookie-cutter" awards that are not always fair.

S-2750/A-3909 is a bill currently in committee in the New Jersey legislature that would end permanent alimony in addition to setting guidelines regarding the duration and amount of the other kinds of alimony. At this point, a vote on the measure has not yet been scheduled.

Contact A New Jersey Family Law Attorney

If you are going through a divorce, it is important to have the right legal assistance. An experienced New Jersey family law attorney can help you pursue the alimony outcome you desire, will be equipped to handle all other important aspects of your divorce case and will stay abreast of any coming changes to the law. Bring your alimony concerns to a New Jersey family law attorney today.