Alimony and Support

The word "alimony" literally signifies nourishment or sustenance.  Alimony is also termed "spousal support".  The allowance awarded is paid by one spouse (the "payor" or "obligor") to the other spouse (the "payee" or "obligee") for maintenance and support.  

Historically, only men bore the responsibility of paying support obligations such as alimony during and after a divorce.  Since traditionally men were the primary or sole breadwinners in a family, courts typically spoke only of a "husband's obligation" to pay support.  In 1979, the United States Supreme Court held that it is unconstitutional for any state to have laws imposing alimony obligations on the husband only. See Orr v. Orr, 440 U.S. 268, 99 S.Ct. 1102 (1979).  Yet, despite the Supreme Court's ruling, and several social and economic changes that have led women toward parity, the majority of the financial obligations still fall upon the husband.

In New Jersey, the applicable law on alimony is N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.  This law also covers maintenance and child support; security; failure to obey orders; sequestration of property; modification of orders; and equitable distribution of property.  While alimony awards are not required in New Jersey, family courts have the discretion to require either party to pay alimony to the other party. A court may award alimony in actions for divorce, dissolution of a civil union, divorce from bed and board, legal separation from a partner in a civil union couple or nullity.  The court may award one of two types of alimony to either party: (1) "open durational alimony" which, as of September 10, 2014, replaced “permanent alimony”; or (2) "rehabilitative alimony" or "limited duration alimonywhich is intended to "rehabilitate" the payee into financial self-reliance.  Alimony awards depend on whether one spouse needs financial support from the other.  The amount of the alimony award is taxable income to the receiving spouse and deductible by the payor spouse. If a court determines that an alimony award is warranted, its decision and the amount of alimony are based on several factors of the marital relationship. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

(1) The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;

(2) The duration of the marriage or civil union;

(3) The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;

(4) 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;

(5) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;

(6) The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;

(7) The parental responsibilities for the children;

(8) 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;

(9) 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;

(10) 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;

(11) The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;

(12) 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;

(13) The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite support paid, if any; and

(14) Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.