Short-Term vs. Long-Term Marriages
By Snyder & Sarno on August 21, 2013
Financial disputes play a major role in divorce actions, especially where alimony is concerned. There are four different types of alimony: permanent, limited duration, rehabilitative, and reimbursement. Generally speaking, permanent alimony is awarded to a dependent spouse when a marriage is considered long-term, and limited duration alimony is awarded to a dependent spouse when a marriage is considered short-term. There are no hard and fast rules for determining what is considered a long-term or short-term marriage, however in a recent case, Gnall v. Gnall, the Appellate Division shed some light on what should be considered a long-term marriage for purposes of determining whether an alimony award should be permanent or for a limited duration.
In this case, the parties were married for fifteen years, during the majority of the time the husband worked and the wife stayed home to raise their three children. The Family Part judge concluded that the fifteen-year marriage was not a short-term marriage, however, the parties were relatively young, healthy, and educated which would allow them to work and earn good salaries. Thus, the trial judge held that the parties were not married long enough nor were they old enough to require an award of permanent alimony.
The Appellate Division reversed. The court set forth the factors listed in N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23b that must be considered when awarding alimony, which include:
(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;
(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;
(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;
(13) Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
The court also made clear that limited duration alimony should not be awarded in cases where permanent alimony is warranted, and that the length of the marriage is the defining distinction between permanent and limited duration alimony. The Appellate Division held that, though it did “not intend to draw specific lines delineating ‘short-term’ and ‘long-term’ marriages . . . a fifteen-year marriage is not short-term, a conclusion which precludes consideration of an award of limited duration alimony.” Thus, the court reversed and remanded for an award of permanent alimony.
Though there is still no clear line of what makes for a short-term or long-term marriage, Gnall takes us one step closer to the answer by providing that a fifteen-year marriage is long-term for purposes of awarding alimony. If you have questions about your alimony award, contact the experienced attorneys at Snyder & Sarno at (973) 274-5200.
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