When a marriage breaks up the court is charged with determining how the property and assets of the married couple are to be split. Working out the details of this split is often a major part of any divorce settlement. In some cases, alimony or spousal support is called for.
The operating principle that the court must apply in the state of New Jersey is for the equitable distribution of a couple’s property and assets. This is not necessarily a 50/50 equal split, but equitable in the sense that the property should be divided in a fair and reasonable manner.
The purpose of alimony is to ensure that both parties in the divorce can enjoy a similar, and comparably equitable, standard of living. In an era when men earned most of the household income and women were primarily housekeepers and child-raisers, alimony was a way of ensuring that both partner’s contributions to the marriage were valued, even if they were not able to equally contribute financially, but instead performed duties and functions integral to the maintenance of their lives together. This, of course, is no longer a gendered standard, but has to do with contribution.
Alimony is called for when the earnings of one spouse greatly outweigh that of the other. Alimony is not required in every divorce case, but it can play a significant part in some settlements.
There are several types of alimony:
Temporary Alimony may be awarded during the process of litigation, to provide temporary support to a lesser-earning spouse until the divorce is settled.
Rehabilitative Alimony is a limited-duration alimony that aims to provide basic support for a spouse until they are able to secure employment. For instance, a spouse who had no career prior to the divorce may need to further their education or acquire skills that will increase their earning potential.
Reimbursement Alimony may be sought to recover the costs of one spouse’s support for the other during the marriage (for instance, if one spouse provided financial support for the other’s education).
Permanent Alimony is granted to the lesser-earning spouse until the death of either party, or until the recipient spouse remarries.
Many factors go into a determination of alimony, including length of marriage, disability of either party, ability to earn, educational background, and much more that can be discussed with your attorney and argued in court (sometimes successfully in opposite directions, depending on the leanings of the judge).
There are currently several alimony reform bills moving through the New Jersey legislature. Some favor an approach that is centered on ending permanent alimony and establishing guidelines for limited-duration payments. Others calls for more judicial discrimination in determining the length and amount of alimony.
We are actively following the progress of this legislation, and will be talking more about both of these approaches in future posts.
If you have questions about your rights and obligations in regard to spousal support, don’t hesitate to call our office at 856-227-7888, or contact us at [email protected] to schedule a free consultation.
The above is not specific legal advice nor does it create a lawyer-client relationship. Do not rely upon it without consulting an attorney to see how the information presented fits your unique circumstances.