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The following are answers to some frequently asked questions about specific issues relating to alimony and what to expect if your case goes to court. You can also read our answers to FAQs on calculating alimony and child support, and some important considerations for filing for divorce.
FAQs about Alimony in New Jersey
How do I know if I am entitled to alimony?
New Jersey’s family law statute states that the courts may award alimony, “as the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case shall render fit, reasonable and just.” While this does not tell you much, it does tell you that courts have broad discretion in determining alimony awards.
In general, the purpose of alimony is to provide support for a spouse who was financially dependent on the other spouse during their marriage. To the extent reasonably possible, both spouses should be able to maintain the standard of living that they enjoyed during their marriage. In mediation, Collaborative Divorce, and Progressive Divorce, the parties can work with their attorneys to establish a fair alimony obligation. If your case goes to court, the judge will consider a list of factors to determine your alimony award.
Does fault in the marriage affect alimony?
In 2005, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that marital fault is irrelevant to alimony except in two specific scenarios: (i) cases in which the fault has affected the parties’ economic life (which can affect the amount of alimony), and (ii) cases in which the fault so violates societal norms that continuing the economic bonds between the parties would confound notions of simple justice (which can affect whether alimony is awarded at all). As a result, in the vast majority of cases alimony is determined solely based on the list of factors mentioned in the previous FAQ.
How long does alimony last?
The length of time over which you or your spouse is entitled to receive alimony will depend on the specific reason that support is being provided. New Jersey law recognizes four different types of alimony: rehabilitative, limited-duration, open-durational, and reimbursement. With the Alimony Reform Act of 2014, New Jersey did away with the concept of permanent alimony. Our attorneys can provide more information on the types of alimony and which one(s) are likely to apply in your case.
You can also seek to modify an existing alimony award in the event of changed circumstances. Common examples of changed circumstances that justify modification of alimony include disability or retirement of the party obligated to pay, and cohabitation by the alimony recipient. Whether a reduction in alimony will be applied retroactively is up to the discretion of the judge.
FAQs about What to Expect if Your Alimony Dispute goes to Court
Does my spouse have to pay my attorneys’ fees if I win my case?
The default rule is that each party to a court action pays their own attorneys’ fees. However, in matrimonial cases, the court may award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing party taking into consideration the parties’ financial circumstances and whether the losing party is guilty of bad faith.
What if the judge isn’t giving me a fair trial?
Litigants have the right to seek disqualification of a judge who they reasonably believe is unable to provide a fair and unbiased hearing or judgment. Ultimately, it is up to the judge whether or not to recuse himself or herself from the case, taking into consideration the ethical duties and rules that apply to judges hearing civil trials.
Does the judge have to give a reason for their decision?
Yes. Under two cases decided in 1996 and 2013, trial judges have a duty to state the reasons supporting their factual conclusions in family law matters.
What are my options if I don’t win my case?
If you lose your alimony case, your attorney will need to help you decide whether you have grounds to press for a different result. You may be able to file a motion for reconsideration, but only if there is a specific legal justification for doing so. Except in cases involving clerical errors, motions for reconsideration need to be submitted within 20 days of service of the judgment. Your attorney may also be able to help you file an appeal if the judge’s findings were inconsistent with the evidence or unsupported by the record, or if the judge otherwise misapplied his or her discretion.
Speak with a Family Law Attorney about Your Alimony Case Today
Romanowski Law Offices provides effective and experienced representation for individuals in New Jersey family law matters. If you have questions about alimony, call us at (732) 603-8585 or contact us online to schedule an expert consultation.