Spousal Support (formerly Alimony) is one of the most difficult issues for many divorcing couples to resolve. People who have no trouble putting their children's interests ahead of their own while developing a parenting plan or reasonably dividing marital assets during equitable distribution can often hit a real roadblock when trying to agree on spousal support. Here in New Jersey, the law allows for four different types of spousal support /alimony.
Permanent Spousal Support / Alimony
Despite what the name seems to imply, permanent spousal support / alimony is not usually permanent. It is intended to continue indefinitely until some major change of circumstance. This type of spousal support is usually ended or modified when the incomes of one or both of the parties changes significantly. Permanent spousal support / alimony is awarded only in longer-term marriages where there is little if any chance that a spouse would ever be able to maintain the standard of living of the marriage. There is no set number of years, but spousal support of this type is generally awarded in marriages of more than ten years.
The typical permanent spousal support / alimony 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 permanent spousal support / alimony in New Jersey is one in which the parties have both worked outside the home, but one has a substantially greater income.
Limited Duration Spousal Support / Alimony
This is spousal support that is to be paid for a certain period of time. It is appropriate in shorter-term marriages 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 spousal support is often modifiable in amount during the term, but the term itself is usually not modifiable.
Rehabilitative Spousal Support / Alimony
Like limited duration spousal support, rehabilitative spousal support 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 for a spouse 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 come under this concept. The idea is to pay spousal 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.
Reimbursement Spousal Support / Alimony
This type of spousal support 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.
Further complicating matters is that unlike Child Support, there are no "spousal support guidelines" from the State of New Jersey. As every family's circumstances are unique, it is always best to consult with a mediator who can help you and your spouse understand the principles behind spousal support / alimony in detail and determine what an appropriate amount of spousal support would be. With that in mind, please note this document is intended to give a general overview of the subject matter and not to provide any specific legal advice.
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For more than 20 years, Equitable Mediation Founder and Divorce Mediator Joe Dillon has been helping individuals, couples and corporations mediate a myriad of complex issues and intractable problems by utilizing his expertise in negotiation, finance and interpersonal relationships.
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