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Alimony - The Need For and Fear Of

New Jersey permits by statute two types of alimony, permanent and/or rehabilitative alimony. The statutory criteria for an award of alimony consists of many factors which are set forth below:

  • The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
  • 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 and custodial responsibilities for children of the party seeking maintenance;
  • The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
  • The history of the financial or nonfinancial 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 ordered and any payout on equitable distribution directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair; and
  • Any other factors which the Court may deem relevant.

When a dependent spouse is of a certain age without the training or skills to become self-supporting or to learn those skills, the Courts will generally award alimony on a permanent basis until death or remarriage. When the dependent spouse is able to learn skills to become self-supporting, the Court will award rehabilitative alimony for a period of time sufficient to enable the spouse to obtain the requisite skills. The Family Part Judge can order a combination of those two types of alimony. A third type of alimony exists which the Court cannot order but which the parties can agree in an out-of-court settlement. Term alimony is alimony for a specific number of years which does not necessarily relate to permanent or rehabiliative factors.

The computation of the amount of alimony is one of the most troublesome aspects of family law. Many "breadwinner" spouses have a real fear of alimony and on the contrary, many dependent spouses refuse alimony on principle. However, once the principles of alimony are understood, a workable amount can be computed. The beginning point is too analyze a reasonable budget comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage. When there are insufficient funds to accomplish that goal, the theory becomes one of reducing the lifestyles in a comparable fashion. There are no monetary guidelines for alimony in New Jersey. Therefore, the respective budgets, the child support and college contributions of the parties, as well as each parties' earnings or earning capabilities, determines the amount of alimony.

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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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