Alimony is payment from one spouse to the other, to help support the other spouse. Typically, the payor will have more income than the support spouse.
As with many things in New Jersey Divorce Law, the trial Court Judge has a great deal of control over how much money is going to be paid every month, if any, and for how long. The law on this gets very complicated very quickly.
The law was changed in 2014, and there are now 14 separate things that the Judge is required to consider when deciding alimony. These are listed in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23b. The Judge has to first look at each person’s needs, that is their need for money to pay for the lifestyle that they have been living. Then the Court has to decide on their ability to pay, their income, and the other parties ‘income. The length of the marriage, everyone’s age, physical and mental health, the standard of living that they had when they were married and the likelihood that either one of them can keep a reasonably comparable standard of living, earning capacity, educational level, how long the person wants to receive alimony has been out of the job market, what responsibilities they have for taking care of children, the possibility of going back for more education or training to improve their earning ability, the history of what took place during the marriage including to the contribution of the care and education of the children and interrupting personal careers for family purposes, how much assets are being distributed to each of the parties, income from investments, taxes, and more.
There is one clear rule in the Statute, which says that marriage lasted for less than 20 years, then the length of time for paying alimony will not be longer than the length of the marriage, unless there are acceptable circumstances.
Even this rule can be attacked. I attended a seminar taught by some very highly qualified New Jersey divorce attorneys, and one of the professors explained to us in detail that there were many, many ways to attempt to show “exceptional circumstances” to get alimony longer than the length of the marriage.
For most couples who are getting a divorce, the Judge will look at the income that the husband makes and the wife makes, and compare them. If there is any real difference between how much the husband is earning and how much the wife is earning, the Judge will consider awarding alimony to be paid from one to the other, to adjust that difference.
You should know that alimony can be one of the most difficult issues in any divorce. You need an attorney who has fought these fights many times, and will fight for you to get the best results for you.