This is a question we as Matrimonial Attorneys are often asked by our clients, usually early on in the divorce process. The answer is “yes, several different types”.
For example, there is limited duration alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony and permanent alimony. Alimony is designed to allow one spouse, typically the spouse with lesser earnings or earning capacity, to continue to live as similar a lifestyle post-divorce as they did during the marriage.
However, in determining the type and the amount of alimony to be awarded, unlike child sup- port, there is no formula a Judge is instructed to employ. While this is true, the legislature has provided Judges certain factors to be considered in determining the amount and duration of Alimony. Those factors include the length of the marriage, the age and health of each of the parties, the length of absence from the job market (often to care for children), the ability to earn and the actual earnings of the parties.
Generally, the longer two people have been married, the longer the duration of the alimony award. In addition, alimony can be awarded on a temporary basis either due to the parties having a short-term marriage or due to one party’s need for a period of assistance, or “rehabilitation” to allow themselves to get back on their feet. This is usually accomplished by way of obtaining additional education or job training.
Finally, reimbursement alimony can be awarded to compensate one party for supporting the other party through obtaining an advanced education, believing that they would reap the benefits of it throughout the duration of the marriage. Once the type of alimony that is appropriate in any given case is determined, the amount must be calculated. A critical factor in the amount of alimony awarded is one party’s financial need for support and the other party’s ability to pay.
Essentially, this amounts to one party’s financial dependence upon the other which has been established during the marriage. The phrase most often associated with an attempt to determine an appropriate alimony award is “to allow both parties to maintain the standard of living enjoyed by the parties during the marriage”. In most cases, this is simply a practical impossibility. How can it be that two people can live separately at the same standard of living with the same funds that had maintained them as a family? The same money simply cannot provide for this. So a court will attempt to fashion an award that is fair and equitable to both parties, taking into consideration all of the facts of the case. One of the most important functions of an award of alimony is to try to ensure that one party’s standard of living does not unduly suffer while the other party’s actually increases. Remember, divorce is partnership dissolution. One partner should not leave the partnership as the pauper while the other party is able to live the “high life”. This is true regardless of who is paying and who is receiving alimony.
It is important to discuss with your Matrimonial Attorney what that standard of living was during the marriage and be prepared to provide examples to support your opinion. This is often accomplished by reviewing financial documents, such as bank and credit card statements, which are helpful in determining what funds were spent during your marriage. It is only through an accurate depiction of your lifestyle during the marriage that the proper amount of alimony can be calculated. Your attorney will endeavor to assist you in obtain- in an alimony award appropriate for your circumstances.
Thomas Jenkins is family lawyer in the law firm of Trace and Jenkins, LLC, located in Woodbury, NJ.