During a divorce, a New Jersey court may order one spouse to make monthly payments of alimony. Alimony, which is also called spousal support, is an obligation to financially support a spouse during or after a divorce. It helps the receiving spouses continue to enjoy the lifestyle of the marriage. 

Traditionally, we think of women receiving alimony. However, the rules of alimony apply equally to both spouses regardless of gender.  

Calculating Alimony or Spousal Support in New Jersey

There is no fixed formula to calculate alimony in New Jersey. 

Whether the court awards alimony, the amount awarded, and the length of time it will continue depends on several factors:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The amount of child support awarded, if any
  • Each party’s income earning capacity, including education, job training, and employability
  • Each party’s actual expenses and ability to pay
  • Each party’s contributions to the marriage (financial and non-financial) 
  • Division of assets
  • Tax consequences of alimony
  • The length of time the spouse seeking alimony has not worked
  • Any passive income received by either party

The court can consider other factors, like each party’s age and health. The court will consider the parties’ standard of living during the marriage. 

In New Jersey, there are different kinds of alimony for different spousal situations. 

Open Durational Alimony

Historically, alimony was common in divorce cases. In the early 1900s and up to the mid-1900s, most marriages shared similar social dynamics. One spouse, usually the man, worked outside the home as a breadwinner.  The other spouse, usually the mother, worked as a homemaker or “stay-at-home-mom.” 

After 20 years or more supporting her family from home, a mother’s ability to re-enter the workforce is limited. Alimony recognizes the value of unpaid household labor and it supports a spouse who could not otherwise earn enough money to meet their needs.

A spouse qualifies for open durational alimony if they were married for over 20 years or if one spouse is financially dependent or unable to work due to disability or lack of skills. Open durational alimony continues until the receiving spouse remarries, begins to cohabitate and share expenses with another person, or the paying spouse reaches retirement age.  

If a change in circumstances occurs, a party can request a change in the amount of the open durational alimony. 

Limited Duration Alimony

Today, there are more working mothers than ever before. As time passes, spouses make financial decisions in consideration of their shared family and career goals. Many parents understand the benefits to children of parental involvement during early childhood development.  

Most married couples pool their resources. By sharing income and dividing expenses between them, spouses are able to enjoy a higher standard of living than either of them would alone. A spouse will receive limited duration alimony during the transition from shared resources to financial independence. 

Limited duration alimony continues until a certain event occurs. Alimony could continue until the spouse lands a job. Usually, the duration is limited to the length of the marriage. For example, a spouse married for 5 years can only receive 5 years of limited duration alimony. 

Should a change in circumstances occur, at the request of either party, a court can adjust the alimony amount.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is awarded for a limited amount of time, usually when a spouse could become financially independent with education or training. It will last for the amount of time it is expected for the receiving spouse to complete their education or training and start working. 

Reimbursement Alimony

If one spouse supported the other through lengthy job training or education, and expected to benefit from the other spouse’s increased earning capacity, they may qualify for reimbursement alimony.  

Alimony vs. Spousal Support

Alimony, or spousal support, helps one spouse maintain the lifestyle of the marriage. In most cases, it continues until the receiving spouse completes education or training and increases their earning capacity. For marriages of 20 years or more, it can last longer. In New Jersey, the duration of spousal support cannot exceed the length of the marriage.

Alimony and spousal support are two sides of the same coin. Traditionally, we think of women receiving alimony after a long marriage. That kind of alimony is still available.

But as modern family dynamics have changed, so has our language.