How Alimony is Determined in New Jersey

How Do New Jersey Courts Determine Alimony?

Alimony awards are not automatic and have steadily declined since the 1960s from 25% to 10% of divorce cases. However, alimony can be an issue in New Jersey divorces involving large income disparities and marriages lasting for 20 or more years. If you believe alimony might be an issue in your divorce, here is some information about how New Jersey courts calculate it.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is a legal order issued by a divorce judge to one party to pay financial support to a former spouse for a specific duration. People ordered to pay alimony make monthly payments that are separate from child support they might also be ordered to pay.

While some people think an alimony award is permanent, courts typically order alimony for a limited duration to help the lower-earning spouse transition to becoming fully self-supporting. However, courts can order open-durational alimony in certain situations involving lengthy marriages.

When a court orders alimony, it does not base the decision on the spouses’ genders. In 1979, the U.S. Supreme Court held that alimony is gender-neutral, which means that a court can order a woman to pay alimony to her ex-husband or vice versa.

When Will Courts Order Alimony?

Judges do not automatically order alimony just because a spouse requests it. Instead, New Jersey courts consider 13 statutory factors when deciding whether to grant alimony.

In most cases, the higher-earning spouse is the party that will be required to pay alimony regardless of gender. However, every divorce is unique, and the courts do not have a standard formula to calculate alimony in New Jersey. Instead, the court will consider the statutory factors and the evidence each spouse presents to determine an appropriate amount and duration. At its root, alimony is meant to give the lower-earning spouse the chance to maintain a lifestyle similar to what they enjoyed while married.

A former spouse can’t come back to request alimony after the court issues the final divorce decree. You can only request alimony while your divorce is pending. It isn’t something you can seek once you’re already divorced.

Statutory Factors

The statutory factors courts consider when determining whether to award alimony are codified in NJRS § 2A: 34-23 and include the following:

  • The requesting party’s needs combined with the other spouse’s ability to pay
  • How long the marriage or civil partnership lasted
  • Age, physical health, and emotional health of each party
  • Standard of living during the marriage and the ability of each spouse to achieve a reasonable similar standard post-divorce
  • Each party’s earning capacity based on their education, occupational skills, training, and employability
  • Length of the requesting spouse’s absence from the workforce
  • How long the requesting spouse will take to obtain the education or training necessary to secure good employment and their prospect of earning income in the future
  • Each party’s parental responsibilities
  • Contributions each spouse made during the marriage, including financial contributions, child-rearing, housekeeping, or supporting the other party’s career while sacrificing their own
  • Final property division
  • Whether either party will earn investment income from assets they own
  • Tax ramifications of an alimony award
  • Whether the requesting party received temporary support during the divorce case
  • Other factors the court deems relevant

New Jersey law doesn’t define how to establish a standard of living. However, spouses can establish their standard of living by gathering evidence that provides an integrated picture of their married life, including the following types of information:

  • Each spouse’s income
  • Each spouse’s budget that includes lifestyle costs
  • List of assets with values
  • List of debts with amounts
  • Travel expenses (for work and pleasure)
  • Children’s expenses (private school tuition, extracurriculars, etc.)
  • Savings and investments
  • Entertainment and leisure expenses

Your established standard of living can affect the amount of alimony the court might award.

Age can impact the court’s decision. A spouse going through a gray divorce is likelier to receive an alimony award than a younger person who is getting divorced, for example. This is because an older adult who has been out of the workforce for years is less likely to be able to enter the workforce or obtain the necessary training and education to allow them to gain financial independence.

The tax implications of an alimony award also influence the court’s determination. Under certain conditions, the paying party can deduct alimony payments on their New Jersey state income tax returns. However, under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the federal tax treatment of alimony was changed. Payors can no longer claim deductions for alimony payments. Depending on their tax brackets, alimony could have significant tax implications the court will consider.

Types of Alimony

The New Jersey Legislature overhauled the alimony statutes in 2014 and made permanent alimony much rarer than in the past.

Courts can award several types of alimony based on the judge’s discretion, including:

  • Pendente lite alimony – Temporary alimony payments made while a divorce case is pending by the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning spouse
  • Open durational alimony – Rarely awarded and only when a couple’s marriage has lasted 20 or more years and the requesting spouse has been out of the workforce and is unlikely to gain employment
  • Limited duration alimony – Alimony limited to a specific period of months or years meant to help the requesting spouse support themselves with a deadline for when the payments will end
  • Rehabilitative alimony – Alimony awarded to help a spouse re-enter the labor force and gain financial independence by paying for training, tuition, or expenses
  • Reimbursement alimony – Typically awarded in cases involving one spouse who worked to pay for the other’s tuition and living expenses to support their career objectives

Length of Alimony

In the past, permanent alimony was more common than it currently is. However, open-durational alimony replaced permanent alimony when the New Jersey Legislature changed the law in 2014.

Courts are likelier to award limited-duration alimony in divorce cases for months or years. Courts generally can’t award alimony for a term exceeding the length of the marriage unless the couple’s marriage lasted for 20 or more years. Even in a divorce involving a lengthy marriage, the court can consider the above-listed factors and exercise judicial discretion about whether alimony is warranted.

Alimony payments will end in the following circumstances, even if a spouse receives open-durational alimony:

  • The spouse remarries
  • The spouse enters a new cohabiting relationship
  • A spouse begins receiving Social Security retirement benefits

Consult an Experienced Divorce Lawyer

If you are preparing to divorce and believe you might either be ordered to pay alimony or qualify to receive it, speak to an experienced divorce lawyer at the Law Office of Kelly Berton Rocco. We have decades of experience representing people in divorce matters and can help you understand whether your divorce might involve alimony. Contact our Hackensack office by phone at 201-343-0078 or email

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