When marriage partners divorce, the court may decide to award spousal support or alimony to a spouse. Spousal support is generally awarded to the spouse of weaker financial means. The duration and level of spousal support is decided in each circumstance. No two divorce cases are alike. New Jersey’s state laws (Section 2A:34-23) provide guidelines for spousal support.
Types of Spousal Support
One spouse makes payments to another to provide a financial safety net after divorce. There are four types of spousal support in New Jersey:
1. Permanent: If the couple was married 20 years or longer, the court may award permanent alimony. For instance, if one spouse earned most or all of the family income and the other did not earn enough money to provide self-support, the court is likely to award this form of spousal support.
2. Limited: A medium-length marriage of 10 to 20 years may involve limited duration alimony. This length of time is considered the midway point in a lifelong marriage.
3. Reimbursement: This form of spousal support may be awarded when one of the spouses supported the other, such as when he or she went to college or graduate school.
4. Rehabilitative: In this type of spousal support, the individual re-trains or receives an education in order to become self-supporting.
Spousal Support Guidelines
New Jersey state law says that the court should consider more than a dozen factors before the determining the type, amount, and duration of spousal support, including:
• Age and health of both parties
• Marriage term
• Requesting spouse need vs. ability to pay
• Spouses’ income
• Standard of living of the marriage
• Custodial responsibilities to children of the marriage
• Length of time requesting spouse did not work
• Spouses’ individual contributions to the marriage
• Property value (marital asset distribution)
• Requesting spouse’s need for education or training
Spousal Support Modifications
Either party can ask the court to modify the spousal support arrangement if circumstances change. Some of the circumstances recognized by New Jersey state law include:
• Income increase/decrease
• Job loss
• Health issue/ability to work
If the owing spouse asks the court to modify the support arrangement, he or she must show family court that circumstances affecting the ability to pay have decreased or that the receiving spouse no longer requires the mandated level of support. If the receiving spouse asks for modification, he or she must prove that additional spousal support is necessary in the current situation.
Spousal Support Termination
Most spousal support is temporary and terminates on the established date in the court order. In some cases, early termination occurs. One of the parties may die. If the receiving spouse marries again, the paying spouse’s obligation to pay spousal support terminates. A spouse receiving reimbursement spousal support must continue to receive these payments even if he or she remarries.