If the word ‘divorce’ ever sent shivers up your back, the concept of alimony or spousal support probably terrified you even more. Alimony is the amount of money which one spouse pays the other during a separation period, divorce process, and/or after the divorce is finalized.
Alimony is a concept that allows both parties of a union to continue forth with their lifestyles in as similar a fashion as the union permitted prior to the dissolution. Will there be changes? Of course, life sets the standard for constant changes, however Alimony allows for familiarity and potential financial protection even when families fall apart. Alimony is helpful too in ensuring that both former spouses maintain the ability of providing for their children in order to avoid unequal footing and overburdening one spouse over the other.
New Jersey Alimony
Multiple factors come into consideration and play when alimony is being sought and established by the Court. The law in New Jersey (NJSA 34 N.J.S.2A:34-23) provides a factor check list for Judges to refer to prior to rendering a decision. This factor check list allows for the judge to accommodate families from all walks of life and with varying degrees of need. Some of the factors include:
- The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
- The duration of the marriage or civil union;
- The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
- The standard of living established in the marriage or civil union and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living, with neither party having a greater entitlement to that standard of living than the other;
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
- The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
- The parental responsibilities for the children;
- The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
- The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage or civil union by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
- The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just, and fair;
- The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
- The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment; and
- The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite (temporary support) support paid, if any; and
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
Alimony and Spousal Support- Pennsylvania
Divorce doesn’t just change our relationship status; it also may change how we move forward in life financially. To alleviate the pitfalls that many spouses may face, spousal support and alimony has become a means of assisting divorcing spouses financially to ensure that both former spouses have as much “equal” footing possible. Equal however is relative and subjective term.
Spousal support is granted to the spouse earning less than the other, following a divorce, in efforts of assisting them begin anew financially. Spouses may choose to negotiate the terms of this financial support or request the assistance of the Court to help them calculate the amount.
Alimony differs from Spousal Support because it accounts for other factors in a marriage and contributions of each spouse therein. Alimony is a collective term that many people refer to as a payment by one spouse to another following a divorce, but the purpose that it serves is to ensure that the receiving spouse is not unfairly burdened financially. The court will evaluate the following factors found in 23 PA Cons Stat § 3701 (2019) to determine if spousal support or alimony ought to be granted:
The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties.
- The ages and the physical, mental, and emotional conditions of the parties.
- The sources of income of both parties, including, but not limited to, medical, retirement, insurance, or other benefits.
- The expectancies and inheritances of the parties.
- The duration of the marriage.
- The contribution by one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other party.
- The extent to which the earning power, expenses or financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child.
- The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage.
- The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment.
- The relative assets and liabilities of the parties.
- The property brought to the marriage by either party.
- The contribution of a spouse as homemaker.
- The relative needs of the parties.
- The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage. The marital misconduct of either of the parties from the date of final separation shall not be considered by the court in its determinations relative to alimony, except that the court shall consider the abuse of one party by the other party. As used in this paragraph, “abuse” shall have the meaning given to it under section 6102 (relating to definitions).
- The Federal, State, and local tax ramifications of the alimony award.
- Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property, including, but not limited to, property distributed under Chapter 35 (relating to property rights), to provide for the party’s reasonable needs.
- Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.
Life changes constantly and to adapt to those changes, often modifications need to be made. Modifying an alimony order is not simple, however with a dedicated team of experts, you can have a powerhouse determined to win on your behalf. When modifying an alimony order, the party is tasked to provide proof (has the burden of proof) that a substantial change in financial circumstances has occurred, most importantly, prove that this change occurred involuntarily. This will be necessary when a party aims to reduce alimony payments, modify, or terminate alimony altogether.
When a party who is receiving alimony payments remarries, alimony terminates, even if it was designated as permanent alimony at its origin.
When a union ends, the dissolution itself brings many lifestyle changes as well. The fear surrounding how you will continue forth into your bright future especially if minor children are involved should not become a burden financially. Allow our team of experts to act as your guide and counselors through this seemingly tumultuous transition and permit us to assist you with making it a smooth journey instead.
Do you have questions or concerns when it comes to Alimony? Is it time to modify a current Alimony Support Order? Contact our team to discuss your circumstances today.