The term Alimony is defined as a payment received under a divorce or marital settlement agreement to a dependent spouse. In determining an alimony award the court considers several factors including: the actual need and ability of the parties to pay, length and duration of marriage, age of the parties, physical and emotional health, standard of living established during marriage, the earning capacities of each spouse, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties, the length of absence from the job market of the party seeking alimony, the parental responsibilities for the children, the income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party, the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, and the history of the financial or non financial contributions to the marriage by each party, including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities.
In New Jersey, there are three different types of alimony: rehabilitative alimony, limited duration alimony, and permanent alimony. When the dependent spouse is of a certain age, without skills, there is a huge disparity in income or earning potential, and a spouse is unable to become independent, the court generally will award alimony on a permanent basis until death or remarriage. Likewise, when the dependent spouse is able to acquire skills to become self-supporting, the court will award rehabilitative alimony for a period of time sufficient to enable the dependent spouse to obtain the necessary skills. A Family Part Judge can order a combination of these types of alimony. Limited duration alimony is awarded, typically in marriages of short duration, and allows a spouse to live a lifestyle comparable to the one enjoyed when the parties where married. In determining the length of the term of alimony, the court will consider the length of time it would reasonably take for the recipient to improve his or her earning capacity to a level where the limited duration alimony is no longer appropriate.
To modify an alimony order it is very important to provide the court with prima facie evidence of a substantial change of circumstances, for example an increase in income, remarriage, death of the dependent spouse or dependent spouse cohabitation with a new boyfriend/girlfriend. According to Lepis vs Lepis 83 N.J. 139, 416 A.2d 45 NJ 1980, an increase in support becomes necessary whenever changed circumstances substantially damage the dependent spouses’ ability to maintain original standard of living and a decrease is called for when circumstances rendered a portion of support received unnecessary for maintaining that standard of living of the dependent spouse. In regards to tax implications of alimony, it is income for the payee and tax deductible for the payor.