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Alimony in Long-Term vs. Short-Term Marriages

Word ALIMONY composed of wooden letters.

Alimony, or spousal support, is often one of the most contentious issues in divorce.  Other than child support and custody, alimony is the hot-button divorce issue we hear about in pop culture, and it is what makes divorcing spouses the most nervous on both sides.  Below we break down how courts evaluate whether to award alimony, how much to award, and how the calculation differs depending on the duration of the marriage.  Reach out to a knowledgeable New Jersey alimony and family law attorney with any questions.

The type of alimony depends on the parties and the marriage

There are four general types of alimony:  permanent, limited duration, rehabilitative, and reimbursement.  There is technically a fifth type, called “pendente lite,” that may be awarded while the divorce is processing.  Courts will determine which type of alimony is appropriate based on the circumstances of each divorcing spouse as well as factors including the duration of the marriage.

Limited-duration alimony is used when the supported spouse needs time to become self-supporting after a divorce.  The court may require the spouse to apply for jobs or educational programs as a condition of continuing to receive alimony.  Limited duration is common when the marriage was very short-term.

Rehabilitative alimony is available when the dependent spouse needs support while pursuing job training or education that will lead to their financial independence.  The court will require the parties to lay out the scope of rehabilitation and the time frame necessary to complete the support.

Reimbursement alimony is appropriate where one spouse financially supported the other through advanced education.  For example, when one spouse worked while the other went through years of college, medical school, and internships, and then the parties divorced before that spouse could reap any benefit from the other spouse becoming a doctor.  The court may order the doctor-spouse to pay back the other spouse for the support provided. 

Finally, permanent alimony means that one spouse will continue to provide support until one of the parties passes away.  Permanent alimony is typically reserved for very long-term marriages where a dependent spouse is unable to become self-supporting.  For example, if the couple was married for 40 years and one spouse took care of the home and raised the children the entire time, it may be unreasonable to expect the dependent spouse to enter the workforce for the first time when they finally divorce.  Although it is called “permanent alimony,” in practice it is rarely permanent; the court will likely require the alimony only so long as the recipient has a valid reason why it is impossible to attain financial independence.  That being said, it may very well carry forward for several years. 

Get Help From a New Jersey Alimony Attorney

If you’re in need of seasoned, dedicated, and effective legal help with alimony, child support, or other family law matters in New Jersey, contact the Union offices of family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro at 908-964-0102.

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