Monmouth County Spousal Support Attorneys
Alimony Law & Calculation
The end of a marriage is both emotionally painful and legally challenging. It’s also the threshold of a new way of life for both spouses. Spousal support–or alimony, as it is interchangeably called–is a means to provide financial stability for both parties in their new lives. An alimony lawyer in Monmouth County can ensure that your interests are represented, be it in negotiation, mediation, or litigation.
In divorce cases where there is no prenuptial agreement, spousal support is one part of the overall settlement process and is not to be confused with the equitable distribution of assets or child custody and support. The payments one spouse makes to another may indeed be impacted by who gets the house and will certainly be affected by where the kids live. But spousal support has a specific purpose unto itself, which is to ensure that both spouses, to the greatest degree possible, can continue to live the lifestyle they had while married.
Types of Alimony
There are three different types of spousal support that may be agreed upon or awarded in a settlement:
- Limited duration alimony–These are payments over a specified period. The purpose is aimed at giving the spouse who suffered the most financial loss time to rebuild after the divorce. Under New Jersey law, any marriage that lasts less than 20 years cannot have spousal support payments go any longer than the marriage itself (save for extraordinary circumstances, such as a health condition). Most alimony will fall into this limited duration category.
- Reimbursement alimony–Perhaps you helped your spouse pay their way through law school. That spouse’s income might be lower right now because their legal career is just beginning. But you provided financial support that will eventually grow into much greater value. One method of making you whole can be to award reimbursement alimony for the costs of their education.
- Rehabilitative alimony–Were you the spouse who stayed home with the kids or only worked part-time? With the divorce, you have a need for more income than you can probably earn right now. But some additional training or education might make all the difference. An example of rehabilitative alimony would be your spouse being required to financially contribute to you getting your MBA.
The different types of spousal support available demonstrates that you and your ex have a lot of flexibility in crafting the plan that makes the most sense for you. Every couple is different. Ideally, the alimony lawyers for you and your spouse can work out a settlement. The alternative is litigation, where a judge will issue the final decision.
How Is Spousal Support Determined?
There is no set amount or percentage that must be settled on for spousal support. The state of New Jersey outlines up to 24 different factors that judges should take into consideration if your case reaches litigation. Factors that will be evaluated include:
Length of the marriage–A couple that was married for 25 years, where one spent more time at home with children, is likely to see a substantial spousal support payment established for the spouse with fewer financial resources at hand. The couple that was married for three years may be on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Medical issues–If one spouse faces higher medical costs or deals with a health condition that may hinder their earning power, that is something the spousal support payment needs to address.
Immediate earning power–A spouse with a high salary along with a high level of professional education and training will likely need to provide some sort of support to a spouse who does not have those things. This is particularly true if the reason the latter spouse is at a disadvantage is because of decisions made on behalf of the marriage–most notably, the raising of children.
Parental responsibilities–The raising of children may be far from complete. Depending on how custody arrangements are shaped, one spouse may still face a more challenging landscape for earning a high income. While child support will address expenses directly related to the kids, spousal support may be required to allow the custodial parent to enjoy the same standard of living that existed within the marriage.
Other factors include the value of investments, ranging from a stock portfolio to a family business and how much money was put into these assets during the marriage. These subjects fall more strictly into the category of equitable distribution. But as we discussed at the top, while spousal support is different from equitable distribution and child support, all these factors invariably overlap in determining the payments necessary to support an expected standard of living.
Factoring in Fault
New Jersey law allows for both no-fault divorce and fault-based divorce. In the latter case, one spouse proves that the other is the reason for the dissolution of the marriage, be it for reasons of addiction, infidelity, or abuse, among others. It’s natural to wonder if this fault will be a factor in any spousal support payments.
The answer is…probably not. While the fault-based issues above may be significant in child custody, spousal support is focused very clearly on simply maintaining financial lifestyles.
Now, there are exceptions. If you have proof that your spouse’s fault caused financial damage, that may be considered. Examples might be a spouse who commits adultery buying their mistress/paramour expensive gifts or taking them on lavish trips. Or if the spouse who came into the marriage with fewer resources immediately engaged in flagrant and repeated infidelity, to the point that it becomes apparent that the wealthier spouse is being exploited.
In general, the principle is that to be denied spousal support, one’s spouse must have done something where an ordinary person would be simply revolted at the idea that they would still be paid by the other.
A common method of spousal support is a monthly payment. Couples can agree on their own payment methods, such as using PayPal or Venmo, or just writing a check. The court has the option of ordering payment amounts to be withheld from the paying spouse’s paychecks and then direct deposited into the bank account of the other spouse.
The type of alimony agreed upon might also make a lump-sum payment a good solution. Or if one spouse is going to pay for the other’s education, they might agree that the paying spouse just writes the check directly to the appropriate institution.
Modifying Spousal Support
Our lives change over the years, and it’s possible that these changes might make the original spousal support plan outdated. As the kids get older, the custodial spouse might be more available to enter the workforce or advance in their career, thus making a lower payment more realistic.
Alternatively, the custodial spouse might develop health problems that make such advancement harder, while the paying spouse sees their own career take off. Under these circumstances, the custodial spouse might petition the court for a modified order that would cover healthcare costs.
Tax Implications of Spousal Support
The 2017 changes in the federal tax code had a significant impact on how spousal support payments are treated. The changes work in favor of recipients, who are not required to report spousal support as taxable income. On the flip side, the paying spouse is no longer able to use spousal support payments as a deduction.
Spousal support in New Jersey is an extremely complex negotiation with a lot of moving parts that impact what is ultimately fair. You need a Monmouth County alimony lawyer who is deeply knowledgeable in all the legal factors that must be considered, as well as experienced in knowing what questions to ask to elicit the information needed to craft a fair settlement.
At Stolfe Zeigler New Jersey Family Law Group, we bring that knowledge and experience, and we top it off with real human compassion for our clients as they try and start their lives anew. Please call us today at (732) 585-1651 or contact us online to speak with our Monmouth County spousal support attorneys.