Alimony is support payable by one partner to another, usually after a separation or divorce. There are several different types of alimony in New Jersey. These include permanent alimony, limited duration alimony, rehabilitative alimony, and reimbursement alimony. For the most part, the terms are self-explanatory. Limited duration alimony is alimony payable for a limited period of time, usually a number of years. Permanent alimony continues until death of either party or remarriage of the supported party. Rehabilitative alimony is short-term alimony payable for a period of time calculated to enable the supported partner to reenter the work force at reasonable earning capacity and become self-sufficient. Reimbursement alimony is intended to compensate a partner who has assisted the other in obtaining an advanced education.
The purpose of alimony is not to punish or reward either party in a separation or divorce. The goal of alimony is to allow both parties to enjoy a reasonably comparable standard of living from that enjoyed during the marriage or relationship, to the extent practical. In appropriate cases, the court will attempt to determine an alimony award that is fair and equitable based upon twelve statutory factors. The problem is that it is often impossible to experience a comparable standard of living when going from one household to two households.
Twelve factors are to be addressed when determining alimony. Unlike child support, which is determined by income-based guidelines in New Jersey, there is no specific income-based formula for determining an alimony award. Instead, we are guided by factors listed in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b), including the following:
- The actual need and ability of the parties to pay.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The parties’ age, physical and emotional health.
- The standard of living established in the marriage and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living.
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties.
- The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance.
- The parental responsibilities for the children.
- The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income.
- 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.
- The equitable distribution of property and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair.
- The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party.
- The tax treatment and consequences to both of any alimony award including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment.
Caselaw has, over the years, further expanded upon the interpretation and application of these factors. The analysis, therefore, does not end with consideration of these factors. Rather, we must rely on precedent as well… and changes in our society that evoke fresh views for consideration of alimony that will lead to a result that is fair and equitable.