Alimony and What You Should Know Before Getting Divorced

Alimony and What You Should Know Before Getting Divorced

Some New Jersey divorce cases will involve alimony. Alimony is a payment of money made by one spouse to the other that might occur while a divorce is pending or after it is over. This type of payment is also referred to as spousal maintenance or spousal support. It can also be ordered following the dissolution of a civil union.

Alimony might be ordered when it is necessary to prevent a divorce from having a more difficult financial impact on one spouse versus the other. It is meant to help both spouses to continue maintaining a similar lifestyle to what they enjoyed while married. However, alimony is not automatic and will not be awarded in every divorce case that is filed. If you and your spouse have jobs with comparable incomes, alimony is unlikely to be ordered in your case. Instead, alimony is typically only awarded when there is a significant disparity between the incomes and earning capacity between the spouses.

When alimony is awarded, it is usually temporary. However, if you were married for longer than 20 years, you or your spouse might be eligible for open durational alimony. If you were instead married for less than 20 years, the duration of any alimony that might be awarded will be limited to no more than the number of years you were married. A divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC can help you understand whether alimony might be ordered in your case and the amount you might expect to receive or be ordered to pay.

How Is Alimony Calculated in New Jersey?

New Jersey does not have a set formula for how alimony should be calculated. Instead, judges must consider each case individually based on the following factors:

  • Whether one spouse needs support to maintain the lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage
  • The ability of the payor to pay alimony while maintaining a comparable lifestyle
  • How long the marriage or civil union lasted
  • For a marriage of fewer than 20 years, whether exceptional circumstances exist to allow a longer duration of alimony
  • The standard of living enjoyed by the spouses during the marriage
  • The ages of both spouses
  • Whether the lower-earning spouse is too hold to start a new career or pursue education and training sufficient to allow him/her to become financially self-sufficient
  • The physical and mental health of both spouses
  • The incomes of both spouses
  • The earnings capacity of both spouses
  • How the property is divided
  • Each spouse's access to assets
  • The contributions of each spouse to the marriage and family
  • Whether one spouse needs to remain at home to care for young children
  • Tax impacts of alimony for both spouses
  • Amount of any pendente lite alimony while the divorce was pending
  • Other relevant factors
  • How long it might take the lower-earning spouse to acquire education or training to become financially independent

Determining Whether Alimony Is Appropriate

If getting divorced will cause either you or your spouse to undergo economic hardship, alimony might be an issue in your divorce. Either of you can request alimony as a part of the relief requested. An NJ divorce attorney at the Ziegler Law Group can help you understand whether alimony might be appropriate in your case.

Is Alimony Ordered Based on the Gender of the Requesting Party?

Alimony is not dependent on the gender of the party asking for it. Instead, the court will consider the above-listed factors to determine whether alimony is appropriate. The court will consider your circumstances and need for support and whether your spouse has the ability to pay it. It won't matter whether the requesting party is the husband or wife or a spouse in a same-sex marriage.

Permanent Alimony

New Jersey changed the alimony system in the state in 2014, and a major change was the elimination of permanent alimony. In most cases, the duration of alimony will not be longer than the marriage. Alimony without a set duration might be awarded when there are exceptional circumstances or if the marriage lasted longer than 20 years. The types of exceptional circumstances a court might consider include the following:

  • The requesting spouse is older at the time of the divorce and unlikely to be able to enter the workforce.
  • The requesting spouse is substantially financially dependent on the higher-earning spouse.
  • The requesting spouse has a chronic health condition preventing them from working.
  • One spouse has received a substantially larger share of the marital estate.
  • The impact that taxes will have on the payor and payee.

The changes in the alimony system were not retroactive. This means that anyone who divorced before 2014 might still have to pay permanent alimony or might continue receiving it.

Modifications of Alimony

The financial circumstances of either party can change following a divorce. If the financial circumstances of either you or your former spouse substantially change, you can request a modification of the alimony order in your divorce or civil union case.

In many cases, a paying spouse will request a modification of an alimony order because of a decrease in income. If you need to seek a modification in the alimony order because of a reduction in your income, you can ask for it once 90 days have passed following the reduction. Especially, if you are self-employed, you will need to present evidence that your income reduction was involuntary.

The court will consider the following factors when deciding whether to grant a modification request:

  • The cause of the reduction of income
  • The efforts the payor has made to find new employment
  • Whether the payor has made a good-faith effort to find new employment
  • The income of the payor spouse
  • The financial circumstances of the recipient spouse

Effect of Cohabitation on Alimony

When a recipient spouse starts to cohabit with a new partner, the alimony can be terminated. This can be true even when the recipient doesn't live with the new partner all of the time. The factors the court considers when determining whether a cohabiting relationship has been formed include the following:

  • Whether the recipient is living with the new partner
  • Whether the recipient shares expenses with the new partner
  • Whether the finances of the recipient and the new partner are intermingled
  • Whether the recipient and the new partner share household chores
  • How long the relationship has lasted
  • Whether the relationship the recipient has with the new partner is recognized by their friends and family members
  • Whether the new partner promised to support the recipient
  • Other relevant factors

Taxes and Alimony

Before 2019, the spouse ordered to pay alimony could claim a federal tax deduction. This provided an incentive for high-earning spouses to agree to pay spousal support. At the same time, recipient spouses would include alimony payments received as a part of their taxable income. However, the laws changed in 2018, and paying spouses can no longer claim a federal tax deduction for alimony payments, and recipient spouses no longer include alimony payments received as part of their federal taxable income.

In New Jersey, however, a spouse who is ordered to pay alimony can claim a state income tax deduction on their state return, and a spouse who receives alimony must report it as taxable income on their state tax return, unless the divorce decree sets forth that the spouse paying alimony will not claim the payments as a deduction.

Consult a Divorce Attorney in Essex County, NJ

If you are getting divorced and think that alimony might be awarded in your case, you should speak to an experienced divorce lawyer in New Jersey at the Ziegler Law Group, LLC. We can evaluate the circumstances involved in your divorce and help you understand whether you might be awarded alimony or be ordered to pay it. Call us today at (973) 878-4373.

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