You’re at the crossroads of a divorce and the same worries keep flooding your mind:
All of these fears are typical in divorce and have one thing in common:
When it comes to money and divorce, there's one topic that's more stressful, more emotional and more difficult to resolve than any other.
First, it’s important to understand that alimony is strictly based on need and is gender neutral. Meaning that both women and men can be eligible to receive it.
Spousal support is not meant to unjustly enrich one party or penalize the other. The idea is to strike a balance and allow you and your ex to live somewhat equally for a period of time just as you did while you were married.
To give them time to get back on their feet and become self-sufficient after the divorce.
With emotions running high and very few formulas or guidelines in New Jersey to help you come to an agreement on alimony, things can quickly go off the tracks if you involve attorneys. That’s why it's better to work with an experienced divorce mediator like me.
I’ll take you through my proven, step-by-step process and help you and your spouse negotiate and come to an agreement on alimony that's fair to both of you.
When it comes to child support, there's a mathematical formula that outputs a specific minimum amount a party should pay to support their children.
And the formula is based on a series of clearly defined inputs.
But there is no such formula for calculating alimony in NJ.
Alimony laws in New Jersey provide some general guidelines in the form of “statutory factors,” but nothing explicit to help you determine a specific amount of spousal support applicable in your case.
The New Jersey statutory factors - 2A:34-23:
(1) The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
(2) The duration of the marriage or civil union;
(3) The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
(4) The standard of living established in the marriage or civil union and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living, with neither party having a greater entitlement to that standard of living than the other;
(5) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
(6) The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
(7) The parental responsibilities for the children;
(8) 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;
(9) The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage or civil union by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
(10) The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair;
(11) The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
(12) The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment;
(13) The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite support paid, if any; and
(14) Any other factors which the court (or parties) may deem relevant.
Even with these statutory factors, the law offers little guidance on how to resolve this topic. Not one of the “factors” listed above results in an actual dollar amount.
Leaving you and your spouse no choice but to negotiate it.
Which, given the nature of divorce itself and specifically, this heated issue, is very difficult to do.
You also need to determine duration.
And just like determining an amount, duration is not so easy to agree on.
But there are other, more creative ways to resolve this because some people just don’t like paying alimony.
For example, sometimes people will trade alimony for equitable distribution. Or do lump sum alimony or an alimony buyout. There are four types of New Jersey Alimony and you can read about them at the bottom of this page.
And there are many different ways to resolve this issue.
Alimony is not a one-size-fits-all topic and every couple’s situation is unique.
So coming to a fair agreement on alimony with your soon-to-be ex-spouse requires more than just a passing conversation or a wild guess. And as you’re starting to see, there’s a lot involved in this highly complex matter.
In the majority of cases, this issue is much too complex and emotionally charged for you to attempt to determine on your own.
Because there's no formula, if you go the attorney route, your lawyers can drag your negotiations on forever.
Until neither you nor your spouse has any money left to keep paying your legal fees.
And there's no money left for alimony!
Just one more reason it’s better to not involve lawyers in your divorce.
And if the issue cannot be resolved between the two of you and your lawyers, your case will go to litigation.
There’s something you need to understand here: In a litigated divorce, a judge determines who gets what.
Sounds scary, doesn’t it?
Because they’ll dictate the terms of the settlement and tell you what you’re going to pay or receive.
That’s why it’s better to negotiate an amount and duration each spouse finds fair. And negotiation is exactly what mediation is all about.
In mediation, you get to decide - and come to an agreement you both agree is fair, instead of letting your future be decided by a stranger.
Using our extensive financial knowledge into the complex matters of alimony and spousal support, we'll determine which of the "statutory factors" apply in your situation and discuss how they may impact the amount and/or duration of alimony in your New Jersey divorce.
We'll discuss which of the four types of alimony in NJ (listed below) may be appropriate in your case. And explore the feasibility of using some combination of alimony types in conjunction with child support and equitable distribution, as all three topics are inter-connected.
We’ll actively guide you through our comprehensive budgeting process to reflect your marital as well as projected post-marital expenses. So we can take a close look together at what each of you earn, spend and will need to move forward.
And since we offer all-inclusive, flat-fee mediation services, we have no vested interest in prolonging the conflict because we don’t bill you hourly like a lawyer would.
Why be forced to accept a settlement created by an attorney or judge when you can have a direct say in your financial future instead?
If you want to arrive at an agreement on alimony that’s fair to each of you and doesn’t bankrupt you in the process, mediate your divorce with Equitable Mediation.
If you and your spouse have both agreed to divorce and both want to mediate, take the next step and book an initial meeting for the two of you.
Now that you know mediation and working with us is the best way to determine alimony in New Jersey, let's take a closer look at the four types of alimony.
New Jersey alimony comes in four types: open durational, limited duration, rehabilitative, and reimbursement alimony.
Formerly known as "permanent alimony," open durational alimony has no specific end date set at the time which it is awarded.
Open durational spousal support or alimony in New Jersey may be awarded in longer-term marriages of 20 years or greater where there is little, if any, chance that a spouse would ever be able to maintain the standard of living of the marriage.
The typical open durational spousal support case is one where one spouse has been a full time parent and homemaker for many years.
This parent may have past work experience and even a college or postgraduate education but in the years that the spouse has been at home, the other spouse has built a career, a wage earning capacity and a standard of living that the homemaking spouse could not likely reach.
Another typical case for open durational spousal support in New Jersey is one in which the parties have both worked outside the home, but one has a substantially greater income.
This is spousal support that is to be paid for a certain period of time.
It is appropriate in shorter-term marriages (less than 20 years) and in marriages where there is a reasonable probability that the spouse being paid the spousal support will become self-sufficient to the extent of being able to maintain the standard of living of the marriage.
This type of alimony in NJ is often modifiable in amount during the term, but the term itself is usually not modifiable.
Recent updates to New Jersey alimony laws state that the length of alimony may not exceed the length of the marriage or civil union provided that marriage or civil union was 20 years or less in duration.
Like limited duration spousal support, rehabilitative alimony in New Jersey is only intended to be paid for a period of time, but the duration is tied to a specific plan for the payee spouse to become financially self-sufficient.
A plan to go back to school to get a high school, college or post-graduate degree would qualify a spouse for rehabilitative spousal support. Vocational training, technical training or starting a business would also come under this concept.
The idea is to pay support to a spouse who cannot maintain the standard of living of the marriage while he or she is preparing to become self-sufficient.
This kind of spousal support often takes into account the costs of the education or training program and the inability of the spouse to work or work full time while going to school. It can be combined with permanent or limited duration spousal support.
This type of alimony in New Jersey may be awarded when one party supported the other through an advanced education, anticipating participation in the fruits of the earning capacity generated by that education.
Reimbursement spousal support might be appropriate where one spouse worked to support the other through law, medical or business school.
NJ law recognizes that both spouses worked and contributed to the advanced degree and are entitled to benefit from it.
In addition to choosing one or more of the above types of alimony, determining spousal support in New Jersey also means following thirteen statutory factors that are considered separately.