An Alimony Lawyer Can Help You
Divorce can be a difficult time, made only more complicated by the intricacies of alimony, or spousal support. However, alimony does not have to be a complicated legal mess. If you are going through a separation or divorce, the attorneys at Snyder Sarno D'Aniello Maceri & da Costa LLC can act as your alimony lawyer, helping you understand your legal complexities.
What is Alimony?
Oftentimes, one spouse earns a lower income than the other. While multiple incomes can balance expenses during a marriage or civil union, lower-income spouses will need a way to support themselves after divorce – ideally to the same standard of living as during their marriage. Alimony can ensure both spouses are able to live comfortably, and affords benefits to both the receiver and the payer. A spouse receiving alimony can support themselves, and the expense is tax-deductible for the spouse paying.
There are a few requirements that must be met for an alimony arrangement, including:
- Monetary payments: Cash, checks, money orders, or even PayPal® transfers are usually acceptable, but no exchange of property or services is allowed.
- Separate residences: Alimony is only permitted when spouses are no longer sharing the same residence. If you are still in the same house or apartment, even if you are not in the same room, you will not qualify.
- A written agreement: Any alimony payments must be provided for in a divorce or a written agreement. Informal support or loans before a formal agreement are not included in tax-deductible payments.
Orders for alimony are always subject to review and modification where a party experiences changed circumstances warranting a modification or termination altogether. Trial courts are given enormous discretion to evaluate such changes. There is a two-step process for determining whether modification of alimony is appropriate: (1) whether there was a prima facie showing of changed circumstances; and (2) whether the supporting spouse has the ability to pay. Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139, 157 (1980).
New Jersey courts have recognized some of the following changed circumstances as warranting modification:
- An increase in the cost of living;
- Increase or decrease in the supporting spouse’s income;
- Illness, disability or infirmity arising after the original judgment;
- The dependent spouse’s cohabitation with another; or
- Subsequent employment by the dependent spouse.
While alimony typically only applies to married couples, palimony provides the same option to cohabiting, unmarried partners.
How Child Support Differs
Though often confused with child support, alimony is a separate financial source. Child support is meant strictly for expenses related to caring for that child – school, food, clothes, medical bills, and so on. Oftentimes these payments are not enough to cover other basic necessities, such as rent or transportation costs. Unlike child support, the precise amount to be payed for alimony is up to the judge’s discretion, rather than a state-approved mathematical formula.
If either spouse can demonstrate a change in financial, social, or physical circumstances, the details of an alimony agreement can be revised at any time.
The Different Types of Alimony
- Permanent: Spouses who remained together for a long period of time qualify for long-term or permanent alimony. The payments are meant to compensate the dependent spouse for their economic disadvantage for as long as needed.
- Limited duration: In this arrangement, alimony is only paid for a set period of time. Limited-duration alimony is usually reserved for situations in which an economic need for alimony has been established, but the marriage did not last long enough to warrant permanent alimony.
- Rehabilitative: Like limited-duration alimony, these are not permanent payments. However, there is not a specific time period set for the alimony: it is provided until the dependent spouse is able to be financially independent.
- Reimbursement: In this situation, the alimony is meant to compensate a spouse for any financial sacrifices they may have made during their marriage that may lead to a reduced standard of living after separation. For example, one spouse may choose not to pursue an advanced degree or professional license to take care of their children, leaving them unable to qualify for certain jobs after their divorce.
How Alimony Amounts Are Determined
A large number of factors can affect the alimony total, including:
- How much is needed and how much a spouse can afford to pay
- Duration of marriage or civil union
- Age and physical or emotional health of spouses
- Standard of living established during marriage or civil union
- Likelihood that each party can maintain a comparable standard of living on their own
- Earning capacity, education level, or employability of each spouse
- Parental financial and custodial responsibilities of children
The final total of alimony is not permanent. If either spouse can demonstrate a change in financial, social, or physical circumstances, the details of an alimony agreement can be revised at any time.
Seek Expert Legal Counsel
Separation and divorce can be difficult enough without legal complications. Contact the attorneys at Snyder Sarno D'Aniello Maceri & da Costa LLC to learn how they can help you navigate alimony negotiations.
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