Alimony is a hot button issue in many divorces, but most couples are able to work out a settlement with help from their attorneys. Negotiations usually take place in the form of non-litigation methods such as mediation and collaborative divorce. Regardless of which method you use, you will have to decide how much alimony to ask for ahead of time. This is a complex question that requires careful discussion with your attorney. Unlike child support, there is no set of legal guidelines that determine how much alimony a spouse should receive. In addition, there are no rules for deciding the duration of alimony, although most awards are "limited duration", meaning that it will stop when you are able to support yourself.
The concept of becoming self-supporting is a touchy subject for spouses who have limited job prospects through no fault of their own. If you spent most or all of your marriage being the caretaker of the home and children, you may not have enough education or job experience to earn a decent living. If you have been married for a very long time, you may feel that you are entitled to permanent support from your spouse if he or she earn a high income. Unfortunately, permanent alimony awards are rare in New Jersey, because most spouses are able to recover with one, or a combination of the other forms of alimony.
For example, if you need more education and job skills, you may be awarded rehabilitative alimony, which will get you support for as long you need in order to get a degree and find a suitable job. If you gave up a college education to work full-time so that your spouse could earn an advanced degree, you may be eligible to receive reimbursement alimony. Keep in mind that you can receive either of these forms of alimony in combination with limited duration, and pendente lite alimony (financial support during the duration of the trial). Unless you are elderly, disabled, or have some other reason that would make it difficult for you to become self-sufficient, the courts are unlikely to consider permanent alimony, even if you've been married for 25 or more years.
In all honesty, permanent alimony is rarely in the best interest of either spouse moving on with their lives. It's likely to make the paying spouse bitter towards the recipient, especially if he or she is paying child support on top of alimony. For the recipient, being supported by his or her ex on a permanent basis can make it difficult to move on, since remarrying or living with someone could result in the termination of alimony. Furthermore, being permanently dependent on your ex can have an adverse effect on your confidence and self-esteem. For most spouses, it's in their best interest to negotiate an amount that will help them achieve financial independence. For more information on your alimony right and legal options, please speak with the divorce attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C.