The emotional turmoil of a marriage breaking down, and ultimately resulting in divorce, can weigh heavy on an individual. However, while the financial ramifications may seem like a secondary concern at the moment, it is extremely important to understand how different aspects of both parties lives are accounted for to reach a monthly sum and duration for alimony payments.
It’s important to recognize that alimony isn’t calculated from an exact formula, instead a lot is left up to the judge’s discretion as he/she examines these 14 factors.
1) Spousal Need – This accounts for the cost of living, adjusting for child care and work-related expenses.
2) Marriage / Union Duration – Since lifetime alimony is no longer applicable in New Jersey, a direct correlation is applied to the length of the marriage.
3) Physical & Emotional Health – Since alimony is used as a bridge/buffer toward self-sufficiency health is a major consideration. This applies to age as well in regards to retirement, social security etc.
4) Standard of Living – A glimpse into accustomed established lifestyle during the marriage (based on accurate previous expenses) with neither having a greater entitlement to that lifestyle. There is an understanding that adjustments or changes may need to occur in the future.
5) Future Earning Considerations – What is the person’s earning potential based on education, skills, vocation etc. Taking on a smaller role in one’s work/career to assume household or childcare responsibilities will undoubtedly play a role.
6) Job Market Absence – The longer one is out of work, the more difficult it may be to gain employment and the less likely one’s skills or vocation applies to the current job market. Similarly, the older one is the smaller the market as a whole.
7) Parental Responsibilities – The age and health of the child /children clearly apples when considering childcare arrangements and costs, as well as how these factor into seeking employment.
8) Education & Training – This examines the time frame necessary for the under/unemployed individual to gain the knowledge, skills, and abilities which will enable them to be gainfully employed.
9) Past Contributions – Did one individual stay at home to care of the children and/or household? Was one assuming the majority of the financial burden, so that the other could further their education/earning potential?
10) Equitable Distribution – While the natural thought may be to split property and assets in half, the reality is that only those things acquired during the marriage apply and this also factors in investment income.
11) Investment Income – Money available to your family through assets and/or investments made by one party.
12) Taxes – Previously, alimony payments could be used as a deductible on income taxes. However, this no longer applies to new cases.
13) Pendente Lite – While litigation is pending, a spouse may need financial support to cover living expenses, this acknowledges if payments were made while proceedings were in limbo.
14) Retirement / Savings – One’s proximity to retirement age and subsequent accrued savings corresponding with their respective ages at the time of union are part of the equation.
While all situations will be tailored to the specific circumstances, this serves as a guideline of potential expectations.
On a related note, a malicious maneuver used to maintain alimony payments while simulating marriage in a new relationship is cohabitation. If you believe your spouse is living with their new partner but must prove it, that’s where we get involved…