New Jersey family courts can award alimony as part of a divorce for various reasons. Primarily, courts order alimony payments to allow the lesser-earning spouse to maintain a lifestyle close to that which was experienced during the marriage. Because of this, in cases involving a long marriage and significant assets, an alimony award can total millions of dollars over a lifetime, or even more.
Alimony can also be awarded on a more temporary basis. Sometimes it is awarded to rehabilitate one spouse into a position to earn more once the term of alimony has expired, and other times to compensate spouses involved in relatively short marriages, where an open durational alimony award would not be fair or appropriate. The Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court recently addressed a claim by a woman that the alimony she was awarded in her divorce was unjustifiably rescinded by the lower court
According to the facts discussed in the recently published opinion, the parties involved had been married for several years, shared two children, and executed a divorce in 2007. As part of the divorce settlement, the ex-husband (the defendant) agreed to pay the plaintiff “rehabilitative alimony” for a period of five years after the divorce. Shortly after the divorce was finalized, the plaintiff became permanently disabled and sought to have the temporary alimony extended to become permanent based on her disability. Although the court denied the plaintiff’s request to extend alimony payments in 2012, the defendant continued to pay alimony to the plaintiff until 2021.
In 2021, the defendant sought an order from the court terminating his alimony obligation. The plaintiff responded by requesting the obligation be transformed into a permanent obligation based on her disability. The trial judge denied the plaintiff’s request, finding that the plaintiff’s disability was not an “unusual circumstance” as required to make a temporary alimony award permanent. Instead, the court granted the defendant’s motion and terminated his obligation. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the Appellate Division.
On appeal, the high court recognized that the lower court may have misunderstood the difference between rehabilitative alimony and temporary alimony, and they may have applied the wrong standard to the plaintiff’s request. The court found that more evidence is needed and remanded the question to the lower court with instructions to hold a hearing to determine which type of alimony the parties agreed to in the divorce settlement.
Contact an Experienced New Jersey Divorce Lawyer Today
If you are seeking a divorce, alimony may be a big issue in your case. Whether you are seeking to be awarded alimony or seeking to prevent an unfair award to your ex-spouse, an experienced New Jersey family law attorney should be able to help. We understand how and why alimony awards are given in New Jersey divorces, and we can persuade the court why such an award is or is not appropriate in your case. Our New Jersey divorce lawyers accept clients throughout central New Jersey. To schedule a consultation, contact us at 732-613-0066 today.