Temporary and Permanent Spousal Support in NJ
The rules regarding spousal support (a.k.a. alimony) in New Jersey were changed in the last decade. Courts are now advised to avoid permanent alimony absent special circumstances. Instead, alimony in New Jersey should be ordered to serve specific goals, rather than as the default arrangement. Continue reading for a discussion of temporary and permanent spousal support in New Jersey. If you have a question regarding New Jersey spousal support, or if you are dealing with a future or pending divorce, call a seasoned New Jersey alimony attorney for advice and assistance.
Types of Alimony in New Jersey
Historically, New Jersey courts often awarded permanent alimony upon divorce. In 2014, New Jersey enacted a law intended to all but eliminate permanent alimony, providing instead that alimony awards should be granted for a specific purpose. Permanent alimony has been replaced with “open durational” alimony, discussed below.
The majority of alimony awards now fall into one of three types, depending upon the circumstances of the parties and the marriage:
- Limited Duration Alimony. Limited duration alimony consists of a series of payments for a set period of time, with an end date or event identified in advance. Limited duration alimony is meant to help the recipient spouse recover financially from the marriage and divorce. For marriages that lasted less than 20 years, this form of alimony should not exceed the length of the marriage and may be terminated earlier should the recipient become financially independent.
- Rehabilitative Alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is meant to compensate a party that gave up their own career to support the marriage and the family. Alimony is provided to help the recipient get the education and training they need to become financially self-sufficient, and it should end when they are able to provide for themselves.
- Reimbursement Alimony. Reimbursement alimony is specifically meant to provide just compensation for a spouse who financially supported the family while the other spouse obtained advanced education or training, such as a degree in law or medicine. This form of alimony reimburses the recipient spouse for the financial support they provided toward the other spouse’s career.
When is “Open Durational” Alimony Allowed in New Jersey?
Alimony is generally supposed to be temporary in New Jersey. The majority of alimony orders will fall under one of the three categories discussed above. However, under certain circumstances, a court may order “open durational” alimony. Open durational alimony means alimony with no set end date or event.
If the duration of the marriage was less than 20 years, the duration of the alimony should not exceed the length of the marriage unless there are “exceptional circumstances.” That means that if a marriage lasted ten years, then the alimony award should last no longer than ten years. Exceptional circumstances might include, for example:
- The recipient spouse suffers from a chronic illness or disability
- One spouse sacrificed their career to take care of the home and the family during the marriage, becoming financially dependent upon the other spouse in the process
- One spouse received a disproportionate share of the marital property distribution
If the marriage lasted for 20 or more years, spouses have the right to request open durational alimony. The court will analyze the parties’ circumstances, addressing 13 specific factors, to determine whether some form of alimony or open durational alimony is warranted. These factors include the need and ability of the parties to pay, the duration of the marriage, the age and health of each party, the income available to each party, the distribution of property in the divorce, and others. Limited duration, rehabilitative, or reimbursement alimony may be converted to open durational alimony based on these factors as well.
Even open durational alimony can end upon certain qualifying events. Typical events that merit termination of alimony include when the recipient spouse remarries or cohabitates with a new romantic partner, when the paying spouse becomes disabled or unemployed, when the recipient spouse becomes financially independent (no longer requiring alimony), or when the paying spouse retires. Upon such an event, the paying spouse can petition the court to terminate their alimony obligation, and the recipient spouse will need to provide a good reason why the alimony arrangement should continue.
Call Now for Advice and Assistance from a Seasoned New Jersey Alimony Attorney
If you’re dealing with alimony issues or considering divorce in New Jersey, contact the dedicated and thorough Union family law attorney John B. D’Alessandro for a consultation.