The court may award alimony in NJ during divorce if one spouse depends on the other for financial support. It is also referred to as spousal support and is a court-ordered financial payment that a higher-earning spouse makes to the other spouse during and sometimes after the divorce.
However, alimony isn’t an automatic award – it is based on one spouse’s financial need and the other’s ability to pay. This article discusses the determination of alimony and other essential things regarding NJ alimony.
How To Calculate Alimony in New Jersey
There is no preset formula for calculating alimony in New Jersey. Family courts calculate alimony by considering each divorce case independently, basing their decisions on various factors. Judges base NJ alimony calculation on the following factors:
- The actual need for alimony: does the requesting spouse need financial support to maintain their living standard, and is the other spouse able to pay while meeting their needs?
- Length of the marriage: How long have the parties been together in the marriage or civil union? Supported spouses in marriages less than 20 years may not receive alimony for more than the marriage term, except in exceptional circumstances.
- Each spouse’s age and overall health: Is the spouse requesting alimony close to the retirement age? Are they too old to begin a new career? Or does their mental or physical health or disability affect their earning ability?
- The marital standard of living and the likelihood that the spouses can maintain a similar lifestyle after the divorce.
- Each spouse’s earning capacity, education level, employability, and vocational skills.
- The amount of time the requesting spouse was away from the job market.
- The parental responsibilities of both spouses: Are there minor children in the marriage? What is the parenting responsibility of each spouse?
- The estimated time and financial resources necessary for the requesting spouse to get an education or training to find suitable employment. Also the availability of education or training and employment, and the likelihood of future income and assets.
- Each spouse’s contributions (financial and non-financial) to the marriage: What was the contribution of each spouse to the marital home? Did each spouse contribute financially? Did one spouse take on the parenting role? Did one of the spouses sacrifice their career to care for the children?
- Each spouse’s property after the equitable distribution of marital property.
- The income of each spouse from investment assets.
- Any other factors deemed relevant by the court.
– Amount of Alimony
The judge will evaluate the factors above to determine a suitable amount to award. NJ alimony guidelines don’t provide specific steps or formulas for alimony amounts, which gives judges the discretion to award an amount they deem sufficient.
Most importantly, the amount awarded should help the supported spouse maintain the living standard they’ve become accustomed to during the marriage.
The judge will also consider whether the supported spouse needs education or training to acquire employment. If that is the case, the amount awarded should be sufficient to support the spouse while they work towards returning to the workforce.
– Duration of Alimony
Family courts in New Jersey also use the abovementioned factors in determining alimony duration. However, the type of alimony awarded also impacts the duration of alimony. So, what are the types of alimony in New Jersey, and how do they impact the duration of alimony?
Temporary alimony, or alimony pendente lite, is available during the divorce process. The court awards this alimony to the financially dependent spouse to help them meet the day-to-day expenses. Temporary alimony is generally short-term and ends when the divorce is finalized.
Limited-duration alimony is also available to spouses who need time and financial assistance to become self-supporting. This alimony terminates after the time specified by the court or when the recipient spouse remarries or enters a civil union. Limited-duration alimony also ends upon the death of either spouse.
Rehabilitative alimony is the most common support if a spouse needs financial help while acquiring education or job training that will help them get employment and become financially independent. The recipient spouse should show the rehabilitation plan and time frame for financial support. Obligation to pay alimony ends after that time frame elapses.
Reimbursement alimony is awarded if a spouse financially supports the other through their education or career advancement during the marriage. This type of alimony is short-term, usually several months or years, and doesn’t terminate after the recipient spouse’s remarriage.
How To Pay Spousal Support New Jersey
The most common way of paying alimony in NJ is making periodic or lump-sum payments or transferring property ownership. Lump-sum payments apply best to self-employed parties or those who don’t receive a regular paycheck. These can be one-time payments or can be made in several installments.
Courts may also require the paying spouse to satisfy alimony awards by transferring ownership of marital property. Spouses without a regular income but with a significant amount of marital property after division can opt for this alimony payment.
Most spousal support payments in New Jersey are periodic. Payor spouses usually make monthly payments, which can be made through several payment methods. Parties can agree to different methods, such as mailing a check or direct deposit. However, the court can also include an income withholding order to streamline payments in the final support order.
An income withholding order instructs the payor spouse’s employer to withhold a part of their employee’s paycheck and remit it to the recipient.
If the payor spouse doesn’t pay alimony as ordered by the court, you can request the judge to enforce the support judgment. The court can enforce support payment through penalties such as fines, bank account seizures, court fees, and even jail time.
In New Jersey, cohabitating parties can pay what is referred to as palimony. It is not a legal term in alimony law in New Jersey and only applies to couples who live together without entering into a civil union or legal marriage.
Palimony might be a valid claim in New Jersey if two parties signed a written partnership or cohabitation agreement. It could also be valid if parties had a verbal agreement regarding their partnership or cohabitation entered before January 18, 2010.
How To Avoid Paying Alimony in New Jersey
The best shot at avoiding paying alimony is planning before marriage. A prenuptial agreement can help specify how to deal with finance issues during divorce and how to go about alimony and property division.
In your prenup, you could specify the amount and duration of alimony during a divorce or state that no neither spouse is obligated to pay alimony, notwithstanding the financial circumstances.
Provided the prenup wasn’t signed under duress or fraud, and the court finds the terms unconscionable, it will likely uphold and enforce it. However, the court can reject a prenuptial agreement if it questions its legality or if it is too biased.
If alimony hasn’t yet been awarded, you can show the court that your marriage was short-term or prove that your spouse doesn’t need alimony to meet their financial needs. You may point out that the spouse seeking alimony has another income source, such as inheritance or a trust fund.
You could also show the court that paying spousal support would result in financial hardship for you. The court will likely deny the request for alimony by proving any of these factors.
– Modification of Alimony
Things can change during alimony payment, and the payor spouse may no longer be in a position to make payments as ordered. The financial situation of the recipient spouse could also improve over time, making payment of spousal support unconscionable.
NJ alimony laws allow either spouse to request the modification of alimony, provided the spouses didn’t agree in writing to the non-modification of support. The spouse requesting the modification of alimony has to show that there has been a significant change in circumstances since the last support order.
The requesting spouse can also prove that the recipient spouse failed to meet the requirements for alimony stipulated by the court. Further, the spouse requesting modification of support can show the court that the recipient has not put forth a good faith effort to become self-sufficient.
Some reasons a spouse can seek a modification of alimony include a reduction in income, a condition that affects the earning capacity of the payor spouse, or if a previously minor child reaches the age of 18. Before granting or denying the request for modification, the court will consider the following factors:
- Reason for income reduction or loss.
- The efforts of the supported spouse to find employment.
- The recipient’s circumstances.
- The payor spouse’s income.
- Whether the recipient has made a good faith effort to find employment.
– Termination of Alimony
New Jersey alimony automatically terminates upon the death of either spouse. Also, support will terminate depending on the alimony type and the court’s end date. For instance, temporary alimony usually terminates upon the finalization of the divorce.
The payor spouse may also request the court to review spousal support if the supported spouse shacks up with another party in a romantic relationship. The court might end the obligation to pay alimony if it establishes that the recipient spouse financially benefits from that relationship. The recipient’s remarriage may also terminate certain types of alimony in New Jersey.
– Who Has To Pay Alimony in NJ?
Spousal support in NJ isn’t gender-based, and either spouse can request alimony during and after a divorce. If spouses can’t agree on alimony, a court may evaluate the requesting spouse’s need for alimony and the ability of the other spouse to pay.
If the wife was a stay-at-home parent and a homemaker, then the court may find it reasonable to award her alimony. However, it is becoming increasingly common for husbands to request alimony during divorce if they handle the homemaking responsibilities.
– What Is the Average Alimony in NJ?
While some states use a formula to calculate alimony, New Jersey doesn’t. Alimony is determined and calculated on a case-by-case basis in NJ, making it difficult to state the average amount of alimony in the state. The amount and duration of alimony ordered by the court will depend on various factors that the court will consider before giving a judgment.
– Is a Working Woman Eligible for Alimony in NJ?
Maybe. A working woman in NJ may still be eligible for alimony if there is a considerable gap between her income and that of her spouse. Keep in mind that one of the reasons for awarding alimony is helping a spouse maintain the same living standard they enjoyed during the marriage and closing the gap between spouses’ incomes.
A court can also award a working wife reimbursement alimony if she financially supports the husband through his education or career.
In a divorce, the lower-earning or stay-at-home spouse can request the court to order alimony. Depending on their circumstances, the court can order temporary support during and even after the finalization of the divorce. This article has discussed the factors considered in determining alimony, how alimony is paid, and how it can be changed. Here’s a summary of that discussion:
- Alimony is not an automatic award; the court considers the requesting spouse’s need and the other’s ability to pay while meeting their own needs.
- NJ courts consider several factors to calculate the amount and duration of alimony before giving a final support judgment.
- Payor spouses can make monthly, lump-sum payments or transfer property ownership to fulfill an alimony order.
- Spouses can avoid alimony by having a prenup that specifies the terms of alimony during a divorce.
- A change in circumstances can warrant the modification or termination of alimony.
If you and your spouse are looking to terminate your marriage through divorce, you can agree to alimony terms to avoid leaving the decision to the court.
Spouses can also use the legal help of a divorce attorney or mediator to resolve alimony issues before or during the divorce. That way, you can go by your terms and avoid any surprises by the court during divorce proceedings.
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