You’re facing divorce. Your soon-to-be ex earns a pretty good living. You, not so much. You want alimony. You’ll get it, right? Possibly, but not forever.
The New Jersey legislature significantly overhauled the state’s alimony laws in September 2014, tightening up on the old concept of permanent alimony after long-term marriages. In days gone by, permanent alimony aimed to achieve a standard of living for both spouses comparable to what they enjoyed while married. After long-term marriages, this status quo might continue indefinitely. That’s changed, and permanent alimony is now called “open durational” alimony. Open durational alimony cannot be awarded unless spouses were married for at least 20 years, except under compelling circumstances. The divorce judgment does not include a cutoff date, but alimony typically ends when the paying spouse retires.
In addition to the duration of the marriage, courts are obligated to weigh other factors when ordering open durational alimony. The New Jersey Supreme Court recently decided that all these factors must be considered, including but not limited to:
- The financial dependence of one spouse on the other while they were married.
- Whether physical or mental health issues exist that prevent one spouse from being self-sufficient.
- The impact of the marriage on career opportunities, such as if one spouse didn’t work for years while maintaining the home.
- The extent of marital property received by both spouses in the divorce judgment.
In marriages of less than 20 years’ duration, New Jersey courts are obligated to include a cutoff date beyond which alimony is no longer payable from one spouse to the other. Alimony can only be ordered for a period equal to the length of the marriage, again absent compelling circumstances. This is limited durational alimony and your divorce judgment will spell out the term of the payments.
New Jersey law also recognizes something called rehabilitative alimony. If you were married for less than 20 years and forewent or abandoned a career or education to support the marriage, a judge may order alimony or spousal support for a period of time to allow you to acquire skills with which to earn a living. This type of alimony may cover the costs of tuition to go back to school or to attend another training program, as well as your living expenses during the time you’re rehabilitating.
New Jersey once had a reputation for being at least somewhat alimony-friendly. Courts were free to order forever spousal support under a variety of circumstances. The 2014 alimony reform has simplified the issue in some respects, setting out some definitive rules. In other respects, it’s complicated things. If you are facing an alimony situation, consult with an experienced matrimonial attorney to find out how the 2014 legislation affects you. Peter Van Aulen has been certified by the New Jersey Supreme Court as a Matrimonial Attorney and has twenty-three years’ experience as a family law attorney. Call him today for free consultation at (201) 845-7400.