When it comes to alimony, the most important question is "How much and for how long?" Unfortunately, there's no definitive answer to this question, because unlike child support, New Jersey has no specific guidelines for calculating alimony. The judges do, however, examine many factors in order to come up with the fairest settlement possible. These factors include the duration of the marriage, each spouse's income and earning potential, and the requesting spouse's financial needs, which in itself consist of various factors. For example, an older or disabled spouse may need long-term or permanent alimony because they are limited in the types of jobs they can work. The same could be said for a spouse with limited education, although the courts expect such individuals to work towards gaining more education and job skills. In some cases, the courts will even consider the types of properties that each spouse brought into the marriage, as well as non-financial contributions, such as taking care of the house and the children.
Another complicating factor is that there are five different types of alimony: permanent, limited duration, rehabilitative, reimbursement and temporary (pendent lite). Permanent alimony is reserved for long marriages (20 years or more), especially if the requesting spouse is elderly. However, permanent alimony is quite rare nowadays, largely due to the passing of the Alimony Reform Act in 2014. The majority of alimony awards are limited duration, which means that the payments will end once the receiving spouse becomes self-sufficient. If the requesting spouse needs significant education and training in order to become self-sufficient, he or she can ask for rehabilitative alimony. In this case, the court will expect a detailed outline of what the requesting spouse will do during the rehabilitative period (e.g., going back to school and working with a career counselor).
The aforementioned types of alimony are normally paid as scheduled systematic payments, but reimbursement alimony is often paid as a lump sum. As opposed to financial support, reimbursement alimony is compensation to an individual who has supported his or her spouse while they pursued some form of advanced education, such as law or medical school. The last form of alimony — pendente lite — is quite different as well, in that it only serves as temporary support until the divorce is finalized.
This, by the way, is only a basic outline of the alimony process in New Jersey. How the courts will determine alimony between you and your spouse depends on the unique circumstances of your marriage. Whether you are requesting alimony, or expect to be the one paying, it's extremely important to discuss your rights and options with a family law attorney. While an attorney cannot provide you with exact figures, he or she can give you a good idea on what spouses in similar situations have received. Working with an attorney can save you considerable time and stress, while ensuring that you will be able to live a decent quality of life during and after your divorce.