When spouses divorce, a court may award alimony to the financially weaker spouse. The amount and duration of alimony is determined on a case-by-case basis in accordance with each spouse's circumstances. In New Jersey, the guidelines for an alimony award are set forth in Section 2A:34-23(b) of the New Jersey Statutes Annotated.
Types of Alimony
Alimony is a payment by one spouse to the other that's designed to provide financial support after a divorce. There are four types of alimony in New Jersey. The first type is permanent alimony and is reserved for long-term marriages, often 20 years or more. It may be awarded if one spouse earned all or most of the income and the other spouse is unable to earn an income sufficient enough to be self-supporting. Limited duration alimony can be awarded to a spouse after a mid-length marriage, usually between 10 and 20 years. The term is usually half the length of the marriage. The next type of alimony is reimbursement alimony. It may be awarded to a spouse who spent several years supporting the other spouse who was attending school. If the requesting spouse made contributions to the other spouse’s education or paid the majority of the household expenses during that time, she will be entitled to reimbursement alimony. Lastly, rehabilitative alimony is available to provide financial support to a spouse as she receives training or education to obtain employment with sufficient income to be self-supporting.
In New Jersey, a court must consider 13 factors set forth in NJSA 2A:34-23(b) when deciding the type of alimony, the amount of alimony and the period of time the alimony is owed. These guidelines include the age and health conditions of each spouse; the length of the marriage; the requesting spouse's need and the owing spouse's ability to pay; each spouse's income; the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage; each spouse's responsibilities as custodian of any children of the marriage; the duration of the requesting spouse's absence from the workforce; each spouse's contributions to the marriage (for example, homemaker vs. wage earner); the value of the property each spouse received during equitable distribution of the marital assets; and the amount of time, if any, the requesting spouse needs for training or education.
Alimony awards are not permanent. Either spouse can request modification if there has been a significant change in circumstances since the order was issued. In New Jersey, recognized circumstances include and increase or decrease in income, the loss of a job, retirement or a serious health issue affecting the ability to work. If the owing spouse is seeking modification, he has the burden of establishing that the change in circumstances has affected his ability to pay or that the receiving spouse's need has decreased. If the receiving spouse requests modification, she must prove that alimony must be increased in order to maintain her current needs.
If alimony is temporary, it will terminate on the date set forth in the order. However, there are some circumstances in which alimony terminates early. In New Jersey, if either spouse dies or the receiving spouse remarries, the obligation to pay alimony ends immediately. The only alimony that does not terminate upon remarriage is reimbursement alimony. This is because the spouse is being paid back for expenses she already incurred during the marriage.
Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.