Alimony in New Jersey

Learn the types of alimony and how judges decide the final award in New Jersey.

New Jersey Alimony

Alimony in New Jersey is governed by New Jersey Statutes 2A Section 34-23, et seq. (Alimony and Maintenance). It’s important to familiarize yourself with these rules and regulations if you’re involved in alimony issues in the state.

To get you started, we’ve put together a lot of the essential information you’ll need to assist you.

What Types of Alimony are There in New Jersey?

Let’s take a look at the five types of alimony in New Jersey.

Pendente Lite Alimony

This alimony is awarded while the divorce is pending. It is a form of temporary support used to help a spouse who is financially dependent on the other and needs help to cover living expenses during the divorce. Pendente lite terminates automatically once a divorce is final and may be replaced by one or more of the other types of alimony.

Limited Duration Alimony

This type of alimony is awarded in cases where the supported spouse needs time to become self-supporting after the divorce at a standard comparable to the standard of living attained during the marriage. A judge will typically include a list of conditions for support, such as attending school or actively engaging in other training, which the spouse must pursue or risk termination of the award.

Limited duration alimony provides for financial support payments for a specified number of months or years. Courts favor this type of alimony after “intermediate-length” marriages, defined as about 10 to 15 years in length.

Rehabilitative alimony

This type of alimony is awarded to help rehabilitate a spouse who needs financial support to reintegrate into the workforce. Courts order rehabilitative alimony for a specific period to help a lower-earning spouse obtain the tools necessary to become self-supporting. It may cover costs of education, training, and living expenses during the reintegration period.

Reimbursement Alimony

This type of alimony reimburses one spouse for financial contributions to the education or career advancement of the other spouse. Reimbursement alimony can be combined with limited duration or permanent alimony, but it is more common when there is little basis for other alimony types.

The spouse who contributed financially to education or training that both spouses expected to benefit from in the future is entitled to repayment of contributions. Reimbursement can include tuition and living costs and any other costs related to obtaining a degree or training.

Open Durational/Permanent Alimony

In 2014, the New Jersey legislature replaced the term “permanent alimony” in the alimony statute with the term “open durational alimony.”

It is less common now than in previous years. It is only awarded when a supported spouse ends a long-term marriage and is unlikely ever to be able to become fully self-supporting at the marital standard of living.

There is no predetermined fixed ending date, but a court can order open durational alimony only after a marriage of at least 20 years. Also, open durational alimony is presumed to end when the paying spouse reaches full retirement age.

The court may order a lump sum or periodic support payments.

Lump-sum payments are more common in cases where the paying spouse is self-employed or otherwise doesn’t receive a regular paycheck. Judges can also require paying spouses to transfer ownership of marital property to satisfy alimony awards.

Most payments are periodic and usually are paid monthly. Couples can agree to the payment method, but if an agreement isn’t possible, the court will likely include an income withholding order, instructing the paying spouse’s employer to withhold alimony from the paycheck and send it directly to the recipient.

Who is Eligible for Alimony in New Jersey?

Either spouse can request alimony, but the court will only award it after evaluating the request based on a series of statutory factors that have been put in place by the state.

The court has broad discretion when determining alimony, and there is no specific formula for judges to use when calculating alimony. Because of this, some spouses prefer to decide alimony issues through mediation or collaborative divorce without a judge’s input. If you reach an agreement during these divorce negotiations, you can submit it to the court for review and approval.

New Jersey law expressly prohibits alimony awards to a spouse convicted of murder, manslaughter, criminal homicide, aggravated assault, or a similar offense if the offender caused death or serious bodily harm to a family member of a divorcing spouse after the marriage or civil union. (N.J. Stat. Ann. § 2A:34-23 (i) (2018).)

Read More: How to File for Divorce in New Jersey

Factors That are Considered to Determine Alimony

Under New Jersey alimony laws, there are 23 factors that the Judge must consider when calculating alimony and determining the type and duration. These factors are:

  1. The actual needs for a party
  2. The ability of the other party to pay alimony
  3. The length of the marriage
  4. The age of the parties
  5. The physical health of the parties
  6. The emotional health of the parties
  7. The standard of living established in the marriage and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living
  8. The earning capacities of the parties
  9. The educational levels of the parties
  10. The vocational skills of the parties
  11. The earning capabilities of the parties
  12. The academic levels of the parties
  13. The vocational skills of the parties
  14. The employability of the parties
  15. The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking alimony
  16. The parental responsibilities for the children
  17. The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income
  18. The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party, including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
  19. The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just, and fair
  20. The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party
  21. The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment
  22. The nature, amount, and length of support paid during the divorce proceedings so far, if any
  23. Any other factors the court deems relevant

If the court determines that certain factors are more or less relevant than others, specific written findings of fact and conclusions of law on why the court reached that conclusion must be included in the award.

When a share of a retirement benefit is treated as an asset for purposes of equitable distribution, the court does not consider future income generated by that share to determine alimony.

Per statute, “In addition to those factors, the court shall also consider the practical impact of the parties’ need for separate residences and the attendant increase in living expenses on the ability of both parties to maintain a standard of living reasonably comparable to the standard of living established in the marriage or civil union, to which both parties are entitled, with neither party having a greater entitlement thereto.”

Some exceptional circumstances may require an adjustment to the duration of alimony. These include:

  • The ages of the parties at the time of the marriage or civil union and at the time of the alimony award
  • The degree and duration of the dependency of one party on the other party during the marriage or civil union
  • Whether a spouse or partner has a chronic illness or unusual health circumstance
  • Whether a spouse or partner has given up a career or a career opportunity or otherwise supported the career of the other spouse or partner
  • Whether a spouse or partner has received a disproportionate share of marital property
  • The impact of the marriage or civil union on either party’s ability to become self-supporting, including but not limited to either parent’s responsibility as the primary caretaker of a child
  • Tax considerations of either party
  • Any other factors or circumstances that the court deems equitable, relevant and material.

Can you Modify Spousal Support?

Under certain circumstances, spousal support can be modified or terminated in New Jersey. The court may set a different alimony amount or termination date for a good cause shown based on specific written findings of fact and conclusions of law. The court will consider the following factors in deciding on a modification or termination request:

  • The reasons for any loss of income
  • Under circumstances where there has been a loss of employment, the obligor’s documented efforts to obtain replacement employment or to pursue an alternative occupation
  • Under circumstances where there has been a loss of employment, whether the obligor is making a good faith effort to find remunerative employment at any level and in any field
  • The income of the obligee;  the obligee’s circumstances;  and the obligee’s reasonable efforts to obtain employment, given those circumstances and existing opportunities
  • The impact of the parties’ health on their ability to obtain employment
  • Any severance compensation or award made in connection with any loss of employment
  • Any changes in the respective financial circumstances of the parties that have occurred since the date of the order from which modification is sought
  • The reasons for any change in either party’s financial circumstances since the date of the order from which modification is sought, including, but not limited to, assessment of the extent to which either party’s financial circumstances at the time of the application are attributable to enhanced earnings or financial benefits received from any source since the date of the order;
  • Whether a temporary remedy should be fashioned to provide adjustment of the support award from which modification is sought, and the terms of any such adjustment, pending continuing employment investigations by the unemployed spouse or partner;  and
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant to fairly and equitably decide the application.

If the paying spouse intends to retire but has not yet retired, the court can establish the conditions under which the modification or termination of alimony will be effective.

A judge will determine a modification request based upon all of the above factors but no application can be filed until a party has been unemployed, or has not been able to return to or attain employment at prior income levels, or both, for at least 90 days.

The court has discretion to make any relief granted retroactive to the date of the loss of employment or reduction of income.

Alimony can also be suspended or terminated if the payee cohabits with another person.  In New Jersey, cohabitation involves a mutually supportive, intimate personal relationship where a couple performs duties and privileges that are commonly associated with marriage or civil union.

Termination of alimony usually occurs when either spouse dies or the duration of the award ends.

Taxes and Spousal Support

For divorces finalized after January 1, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service regulations are that alimony payments are no longer tax-deductible to the paying spouse or reportable income for the recipient.

However, suppose you finalized your spousal support agreement or received your support order before January 1, 2019. In that case, the paying spouse can deduct alimony payments. The supported spouse must report and pay taxes on the support.

New Jersey Alimony FAQs

How is alimony enforced?

If you’ve been awarded spousal support and your former spouse is not paying the support to you, there are several possible enforcement actions you and the state can take.

The most common of these is to file a motion with the court seeking enforcement. In New Jersey, this is known as a motion to enforce a litigant’s rights. You can ask the court, or the court may decide to pursue several possible remedies, such as:

  • Requesting all the money owed to you be paid in one lump sum
  • Garnishment of your ex-spouse’s wages
  • Requesting a bench warrant to be entered for their arrest
  • All future payments to be paid on time
  • A court order requesting execution and sale. The local sheriff may seize and sell specific items to cover unpaid alimony in this action.
  • Place liens on owned properties to raise funds upon sale
  • Request the court to work directly with banks to deduct funds from checking or savings accounts
  • Finding the other party in contempt of court which is a criminal offense
  • Payment of counsel fees from the other party incurred by you in bringing this motion to the court

The judge will determine what sanctions or remedies to order.

Is there a New Jersey alimony calculator?

No. the court relies on New Jersey alimony guidelines, including 23 different factors, when deciding alimony cases. Judges have broad discretion in determining the duration and amount of each case and are not bound by a “one size fits all” calculator. Ultimately, the goal is to create a fair and balanced award for both sides based on all legal considerations.

How long does alimony last?

Per New Jersey alimony laws, for any marriage or civil union less than 20 years in duration, the total duration of alimony shall not exceed the length of the marriage or civil union unless exceptional circumstances are present, creating a need for open duration alimony. Those circumstances may include a dependent spouse’s chronic illness or whether or not the spouse in need is the children’s primary caretaker.

In all cases, the length of the marriage is one factor that the courts consider when deciding whether or not to award alimony and for how long. But there is no firm or set length of marriage in the law that automatically triggers an alimony obligation.

Does child support impact alimony payments?

New Jersey Child Support Guidelines include a clear policy about the order that child support and alimony payments should be determined during a divorce. It states:

If child support and alimony, maintenance, or spousal support are being determined simultaneously (for the same family), the court shall determine the amount of alimony, maintenance, or spousal support before applying the child support guidelines, except when the court establishes pendente lite support. When applying the guidelines, the amount of alimony, maintenance or spousal support shall be deducted from the paying parent’s income (after adjusting for tax benefits, if known) and added to the recipient’s income to determine each parent’s gross income. This transfer method reflects the availability of income to each parent for the purpose of paying child support.

Are some people disqualified from receiving alimony in New Jersey?

Yes. According to New Jersey law, a person is unable to receive alimony if:

  • they have been convicted of murder, manslaughter, criminal homicide, or aggravated assault under New Jersey’s criminal laws, or they have been convicted of similar crimes in another jurisdiction, and:
  • the crime results in serious bodily injury or death to a family member of a divorcing party; and,
  • the crime was committed after the marriage or civil union.

Additionally, a person who’s convicted of an attempt or conspiracy to commit murder cannot receive alimony from a person who was the intended victim.

Read More: How to Deal With (And Recover From) a High Conflict Divorce

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