There has been a shift in the financial dynamics of the American family. As recently as twenty years ago, most families saw the husband as the primary breadwinner. But a shift in the dynamic of the American household has more women opting to start their careers first, before starting a family, and then earning more money than their spouses. The outcome has caused a corresponding shift in traditional alimony payments.

Many men have opted to become stay-at-home dads — a new phenomenon that was unheard of in the past. This has led to a new outcome in divorce settlements, where the woman in the family has been more successful and earned more money during a marriage than the man. As a result, more women are paying alimony in New Jersey after a divorce.

Is Alimony in New Jersey Based on Who Earned the Most?

Yes, the higher-earning spouse’s ability to pay support to the lower-earning spouse is a major factor in determining alimony in New Jersey.  That said, according to Pew Research, 40% of American families have women as the main breadwinner. Yet only 3% of divorced men receive alimony in New Jersey. Many men considered eligible for spousal support (alimony) choose to forgo requesting payments as part of their divorce settlement.

Some may choose to forgo this benefit due to pride. Others may not be aware of the 1979 Supreme Court ruling (Orr v. Orr) that found spousal support to be gender-neutral. Whatever the reason, the number of eligible men receiving spousal support does not accurately represent the number of men that are not the breadwinner in a family or choose to stay home and care for the family’s children instead of work.

Others may opt for an unequal distribution in the divorce settlement to help defray future costs.  This is acceptable in New Jersey and is often part of a larger settlement plan that keeps co-parenting relationships stronger and meets the cash flow needs of both divorcing spouses.

Rules Related to Alimony in New Jersey

Alimony in New Jersey is awarded based on very specific criteria, but there are no set rules in place to determine the final amount. New Jersey has created several levels of alimony, allowing spouses who have been married for any number of years some alimony payments. Some of the current rules of alimony allow the following:

  • A marriage lasting 20 years or more may qualify for “open duration” alimony
  • A marriage lasting less than twenty years may qualify for “limited duration” alimony, but the length of payments may not exceed the length of the marriage
  • A person age 67 (the federal legal age of retirement) is presumed retired and eligible for relief from paying alimony

In addition to income-based alimony in New Jersey, the court may determine alimony be paid to help obtain education or training to be able to provide for himself and his family after divorce (“rehabilitative alimony”). Finally, the court may award “reimbursement alimony,” which allows one spouse to be reimbursed for money paid to help the other spouse through school while married.

It is important to note that there is not a definitive calculator to determine alimony. In fact, the alimony statute in New Jersey has many factors, and the New Jersey Supreme Court has stated that none of them is more important than any other.  In addition, any of the information provided here is not an absolute regarding the court’s judgment. Your attorney will help give you an idea and understanding of how alimony is calculated, but the final judgment of alimony is up to the judge’s discretion and interpretation unless otherwise ordered by the Supreme Court of New Jersey or the New Jersey legislature makes a change to the law.  An experienced attorney can get similar results for you in out-of-court negotiation.

How is Alimony in New Jersey Determined?

There are many factors that help determine exactly how much alimony a person will receive. Unlike child support in New Jersey, there is no set formula to determine alimony payments. Some of the factors used to decide alimony payments include age, health, child custody, child support, spending and budgets during the marriage (“marital lifestyle”), and the earning capabilities of the person receiving alimony payments.

It’s rare that any two alimony payments are the same or determined in the same manner. Ultimately, a judge will decide the duration and amount of alimony to be paid. A good attorney will help you prepare evidence needed to obtain a fair amount of spousal support, especially as the male partner seeking support.  An even better attorney will also use these principles to help you achieve a similar outcome through out-of-court negotiation, sometimes through mediation.

If you have questions about alimony in New Jersey, contact Keith Family Law. Our attorneys will work with you to help you determine your rights relating to alimony and property distribution to make sure you leave your marriage as whole as possible.