In the upcoming months in addition to periodic updates regarding developments in New Jersey Family Law, the attorneys at Ulrichsen Rosen & Freed will be posting content on this blog which will be entitled “Getting Back to Basics: The ABC’s of Divorce”. With the inaugural blog in this series, there is no better place to start than with the letter “A”, which we will utilize to discuss an overview of alimony.
Like many individuals involved in divorce, you may be considering whether alimony will be an issue in your case. With the exception of child custody, I find that alimony is often one of the most hotly contested areas of a case. Whether you are either the payor or the recipient of alimony, the exchange of the alimony will have a significant impact on your post-divorce life. In order to determine if alimony is appropriate, you must first review the four types of alimony available in New Jersey.
Open Durational Alimony
The legislature of New Jersey adopted open durational alimony to replace permanent alimony through a statutory change in September 2014. Prior to this date, permanent alimony was commonly awarded in long term marriages, with no fixed end date. Similar to permanent alimony, open durational alimony does not have an established end date. However, a key distinction between permanent and open durational alimony remains that unless exceptional circumstances exist, a court can only establish open durational alimony for marriages that have exceeded 20 years in length. Prior to the statutory change, an inconsistent body of cases developed regarding what constituted a “long term marriage” for purposes of awarding permanent alimony. With the adoption of open durational alimony, we now have clarification as to what cases qualify for this type of alimony award.
Aside from the guidance concerning the length of a marriage required to award open durational alimony, it is important to note that under our “new” alimony statute that was adopted in September 2014, payors of open durational alimony now have received a rebuttable presumption that their alimony obligation will terminate at his or her retirement age, which is defined by the Social Security Administration. This topic will be discussed in greater detail in our upcoming retirement and divorce blog, but for purposes of this discussion, it is important to note that this is a dramatic shift towards a payor’s rights to terminate their alimony obligation.
Limited Duration Alimony
This type of alimony is often referred to as “term alimony”, as it identifies the exact number of years and months of the alimony award. With the September 2014 statutory amendment, unless exceptional circumstances are present, courts are not permitted to award limited durational alimony for a period that exceeds the marriage. While identifying the duration of a parties’ marriage is usually a straightforward issue, due to the fact that divorce matters may not always settle in an expedited fashion, our alimony law now recognizes that alimony payments made during the pendente lite period (temporary support prior to a final divorce), may count as credit towards the total limited durational alimony award. For example, if the payor spouse provides alimony payments for two years during the divorce litigation and the parties were married for seven years, the court could adjust his or her support obligation by two years, thus modifying their maximum exposure of a limited durational alimony term to five years.
Similar to what the title implies, courts may award alimony to “rehabilitate” a spouse that needs some level of financial support to re-enter the workforce. Every case is different, but often courts will enter an alimony award that is connected to the short-term period necessary for a spouse to continue their education or obtain a certification to re-engage their former employment field as a sacrifice of the marital partnership.
This type of alimony is often awarded in scenarios in which one spouse reimburses the other for financial contribution towards their education or career advancement. The typical fact pattern in which reimbursement alimony is common involves a short term marriage where one spouse received a college or other professional degree and utilized marital funds to secure the same. As the spouse not receiving the degree fully relied upon the fact that they would benefit in the future from the time and financial sacrifice necessary for the other’s advancement, courts may find it appropriate to reimburse the cost of the lost opportunity, which is often calculated as the tuition and other costs expended by the student spouse.
As alimony is often a complicated and fact sensitive issue in divorce, it is important to retain an attorney who is familiar with the nuisances of alimony law. At Ulrichsen Rosen & Freed we have significant experience in handling cases which involve both the securing and protection of alimony awards.