In New Jersey, there are a list of factors under the alimony statute N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23 that are used to determine the appropriate amount of alimony. The factors the court uses in its analysis are as follows:
- The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
- The duration of the marriage or civil union;
- The age and physical and emotional health of the parties;
- 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;
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
- The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
- The parental responsibilities for the children;
- 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;
- 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;
- The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly out of current income, to the extent that this consideration is reasonable, just, and fair;
- The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
- 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;
- The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite support paid, if any; and
- Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
How much spousal support you need (factor number one above) is typically based upon your budget. A monthly budget is determined using a document called a Case Information Statement, which includes a listing of all income as well as a monthly budget (both during the marriage and post-separation or divorce) along with a listing of assets and liabilities. If the parties are still living together during a divorce, consideration is given to the lifestyle the parties led during the marriage when determining a future budget. The “lifestyle” includes the type of house they lived in, the type of cars they drove, where and how often they went on vacation, where and how often they went out to dinner, where they shopped, what they spent on their expenses, etc.
If the parties are not separated during the divorce, an estimate of a future budget can be utilized to determine the need for spousal support. A reasonable budget no greater than the marital lifestyle should be utilized to determine the need for alimony (see factor number four above). From that budget, the net income of the party who is seeking alimony will need to be subtracted. If the party is not working, income can be imputed based upon their education and ability. After subtracting the party’s own income (or imputed income) from their respective budget, the remaining shortfall is the need for alimony. You must also remember that alimony is typically taxable to the person receiving it when considering the net amount of dollars necessary to meet their budget.
Be aware that the need for alimony is not the only factor in determining alimony.
William J. Rudnik. is a family law attorney at Gebhardt & Kiefer, P.C. where he successfully represents clients in Family Law court in matters involving divorce, property division and more.