Length of Marriage is not the only Factor in Determining Alimony
In New Jersey, permanent alimony is granted by the court only in divorces of long-term marriages. However, there is no exact rule stating how many years a couple must be married in order to be considered long-term. On July 29, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the length of marriage could not be considered alone when determining if permanent alimony should be awarded.
In Gnall v. Gnall, the court found that the trial judges must consider and give weight to multiple factors. In New Jersey, there is a statue that requires judges to consider and weigh 13 factors when deciding if permanent alimony is appropriate. The court said that the Legislature laid out these objective factors in N.J.S.A. 2A:34–23b, and judges must use them all rather than just focusing on the length of the marriage.
In Gnall, the marriage had lasted 15 years. Mrs. Gnall argued that 15 years can be considered long-term in modern times. The New Jersey State Bar asked the court not to make a bright-line rule that a marriage must last a particular number of years in order to be considered long term. Gov. Christie signed a bill into law last year which mostly does away with permanent alimony. Long-term alimony will usually only be granted in marriages that have lasted over 20 years, and the payer can apply to end alimony payments or have the amount modified after they reach retirement. This law applies to all future divorces; however, the court did not address the issue of whether this law should apply to divorces that started before the law came into effect.
The Gnalls are both well-educated professionals. Mrs. Gnall left her career in order to care for the couple’s children. Mr. Gnall has an income that is much greater than Mrs. Gnall’s earning capacity. If she does return to the work force, she will not be able to achieve the standard of living that she had when married. The court sent the case back to the trial court so that the trial court judge can consider and weigh each of the 13 factors required by New Jersey law.
The 13 factors required by New Jersey law to be considered by trial judges when determining an alimony award are:
- Need and ability of parties to pay.
- Length of marriage.
- Age and health of each person.
- The standard of living enjoyed in the marriage and whether or not this can be maintained by the dependant spouse.
- Education, skills, earning capacity, and employability of each person.
- How long the dependant spouse was out of the job market.
- Parenting responsibilities.
- Cost and time required for the dependant spouse to get education or training that would allow them to get adequate employment.
- The contributions (both financial and non-financial) to the marriage by each person, including care and education of children and interruption of career or education.
- The property distribution in the divorce.
- Income of both people, including investments.
- Tax consequences of the alimony award.
- Any other factors the court finds relevant.
If you are going through a divorce, you may be concerned about alimony. Contact an experienced family law attorney to help answer your questions. The Law Offices of John B. D’Alessandro, LLC has experience handling alimony and divorce issues in New Jersey. Call today to speak with an attorney regarding your divorce and family law issues at 908-964-0102.