Many people getting divorced are concerned about alimony (also referred to as spousal support). They're not sure if they have to pay, and if so, how much and for how long. Perhaps more than anything else, alimony sticks the most in litigants' craws. When folks get divorced, most of the time they want to be done with their former spouse. A weekly or monthly alimony payment is a reminder they don't want.
So, the question remains, how is alimony calculated? There is a specific statute (N.J.S.A.2A:34-23), which lists the following factors that go into an alimony determination:
(1) The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
(2) The duration of the marriage or civil union;
(3) The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
(4) 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;
(5) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
(6) The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance; (7) The parental responsibilities for the children;
(8) 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;
(9) 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;
(10) The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair;
(11) The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
(12) 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; and
(13) Any other factors which the court may deem relevant."
To make it easier to understand, I summarize the statute as follows as if I was explaining it to a husband looking at paying his wife (alimony can be paid from wife to husband, and this information is also relevant to spouses looking at whether they might receive support):
1) Does she need the money and can you pay it?
2) How long were you married?
3) Is she a healthy young woman at the peak of her health?
4) Can she live a lifestyle close enough to which she became used to without the benefit of your money?
5) Does she currently work and can she continue to work at (or better than) what she is doing now?
6) Is there a gap in her employment history (let's say she became a stay at home parent)?
7) Does she watch your kids?
8) Does she need to go back to school or get certified in something so she can get a job?
9) How much did each of you contribute to the bills (everything from the cable bill to vacations)?
10) Is she getting any other money from you (such as money from a retirement account, child support or a business)?
11) Can you liquidate assets (such as sell stock) to pay her?
12) Will too much alimony bump her into a higher tax bracket?
13) Whatever else the Court wants to look at.
Of course, there are many Court cases (going all the way up to our state Supreme Court) which interprets the above and lays out other information to consider. Nevertheless, the above will give you some guidance. If you were married for 12 years and earned $80,000 while she stayed at home to raise your two kids, chances are you will be paying some support for a few years. If you were married for five years and you both earned roughly the same amount of money, chances are you will not be entitled to receive any money.
Every case is different and fact sensitive, in other words, the circumstances of your specific situation will dictate the outcome. To understand your possible rights and responsibilities, you should contact an attorney.