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4 Types of Spousal Support or Alimony

One of the most challenging aspects of any divorce in 1 is the calculation of spousal support (also known as alimony) as there is no formula but rather a series of 13 (and in the opinion of this New Jersey mediator vague) "statutory factors" that are intended to guide the parties. In New Jersey, the 4 types of spousal support are:

  • Permanent
  • Limited Duration
  • Rehabilitative
  • Reimbursement

In today's article, we're going to focus on permanent alimony. When one thinks of spousal support the idea of one party writing a check comes to mind and with permanent alimony, that's usually the case. But what makes this type of spousal support unique is length of marriage is a primary factor in its determination and how long one would pay alimony (also known as duration in New Jersey divorce mediation parlance) is permanent. Does this mean the party paying the spousal support will pay until they die? Maybe, maybe not... Like most conversations on alimony, "it depends" and that's why divorce mediation is an excellent place to discuss this issue. Permanent spousal support is usually awarded in marriages deemed "long term" which usually means lasting 11 to 15 years or more. And while this does not always guarantee permanent alimony, length is usually one of the factors in its calculation. Notice I keep saying "usually" since there is no formula for calculating spousal support so again, that's why it's best to work it out using divorce mediation. Permanent spousal support continues until one of the parties experiences "a significant change in financial circumstances" which may include retirement by the paying party as well as re-marriage by the receiving party. In both of these cases, the support may be modified or terminated completely depending on the agreement made during divorce mediation.

Another factor in permanent alimony is the earnings of each party. If one party earns $100,000 and the other works part time, chances are the second party will be unable to earn the same as the first so spousal support will be used to help with the difference. As a New Jersey mediator I see this in two scenarios. First the parties have different levels of education and different earning potential. Second (and more common these days) one party has worked outside the home and one party has worked inside the home raising the couples children. Even though both parties may be equally educated and have contributed significantly to the marriage, given today's economic constraints, the reality of pulling a six-figure salary out of the air after being out of the workforce for a long period of time, is virtually nil. So what does all of this mean when calculating permanent alimony? It means it's best to work with a New Jersey mediator who can help you and your spouse determine an appropriate amount of spousal support in your particular case since in the absence of a formula, going to court and leaving your fate to a judge is probably not something you'd even want to consider and I can guarantee you that neither of you will be happy with the outcome.

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New Jersey is an equitable distribution state, meaning that the division of property in a divorce is to be done fairly, not necessarily equally. The court can take into consideration any factor it deems relevant when dividing property, but it must consider certain factors, such as how long the couple was married and the age and health of both spouses, the income or property brought to the marriage by each spouse, the standard of living that was achieved during the marriage, and the extent to which one spouse may have deferred career goals, among others.
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