Frequently Asked Questions About Spousal Support in New Jersey
Disagreements over alimony can be highly contentious. Before you start arguing with your soon-to-be ex-spouse, it’s wise to understand how courts decide issues relating to spousal support. Katherine K. Wagner, Attorney at Law in Somerville assists New Jersey clients who are seeking alimony payments, as well as those being asked to provide them. If you’re getting divorced, you might have one or more of the following questions:
- Do alimony and spousal support refer to the same thing in New Jersey?
- How long must alimony payments be made in most cases?
- How does retirement affect alimony terms?
- What happens if my former spouse is not paying the alimony required by the order?
- Do I have to pay alimony if my spouse works?
New Jersey law uses the term alimony to refer to payments made by one party to another during and after a divorce. This type of obligation is also called spousal support or spousal maintenance. There is no meaningful distinction between the terms in New Jersey. Here, the relevant statute lists four types of alimony that can be awarded after a marriage is dissolved: rehabilitation alimony; open durational alimony; limited duration alimony and reimbursement alimony. A sweeping change in the state law occurred in 2014, so you should consult with a knowledgeable attorney about the current standard.
Some assume that spousal support will be required for a period that is roughly half the length of the marriage. However, there are more than 20 factors that courts must review when making these determinations, so making an assumption as to your case could be very costly. For marriages that last fewer than 20 years, alimony payments cannot last longer than the marriage itself. When a couple has been wed for at least two decades, open-duration alimony could be awarded, which can last until the recipient remarries or one of the parties dies. Cases where a recipient spouse has a disability or has spent decades out of the workforce are more likely to result in several years of payments.
Typically, the retirement of a paying ex-spouse at his or her Social Security retirement age will justify a modification of an existing alimony obligation. Depending on the particular circumstances, the spousal support amount might be lowered, or eliminated completely, once the supporting party stops working. However, this is not automatic. A judge might keep the existing order in place if the paying ex-spouse has significant income from other sources or if an early “retirement” seems to be motivated by a desire to stop providing alimony.
When your ex-spouse fails to honor their alimony obligation, you should take prompt action. When information discussions are fruitless, you can file a motion to enforce the alimony order with the court. Potential remedies include wage garnishment and the attachment of liens on your former spouse’s property.
In earlier generations, long-term alimony awards were more common because fewer women worked outside the home. Now, many former wives and husbands have the ability to support themselves after a breakup. Still, an ex-spouse could be required to pay alimony even if the recipient works. This might be the case if a parent has taken a position with shorter time and lower pay in order to handle child care responsibilities. Each case is unique, so you should consult with a qualified New Jersey family law attorney before you make any assumptions.