Alimony, also known as spousal support, is one of the most difficult and divisive areas in any divorce.
When alimony is actually litigated in a court proceeding (as is often the case with traditional adversarial divorce), both parties can come away feeling angry, fearful, devalued and/or exploited. One party may believe the alimony award (or even the request by their spouse) inadequately reflects her sacrifices for and contributions to the marriage. The other party may feel harried, devitalized and even punished by an alimony request that seemingly strips hard-earned money from each paycheck.
In mediation, we recognize the emotional and psychological perils of alimony and work to do things differently.
Determining Either New Jersey Alimony Or New York Alimony Through Mediation
Unlike child support, which has a recommended formula in both New York and New Jersey, and which generally arouses less negative feelings based on the already established structure, alimony is more complex. New York has recently enacted law that provides a maintenance formula, while New Jersey still has not. Even when a formula is used as a tool, there are still multiple factors and considerations differing from case to case, requiring a detailed factual analysis. When couples enter a contested divorce, each side “makes a case” for why support should be less money for a shorter term, or more money for a longer term, or some combination thereof. In contrast, parties in mediation work together to arrive at an alimony award and term that both parties are comfortable with. This usually means a support amount that is necessary, fair, and realistic. It also fits with the parties values, circumstances and needs.
In mediation, we discuss alimony at great length to ensure that both parties are provided for and that no one is left feeling misused, uncertain or overburdened afterwards.
We start by working with budgets for both you and your spouse, utilizing the Case Information Statement. We look at the marital budget and a [projected] budget with each of you living in separate dwellings. People’s circumstances vary, and while some people are still living in one home when they commence mediation, others have separated. Regardless, we look at the budgets with a focus on what each of you needs to live separately.
For example, one party may require more money each month in order for the children to remain in the marital home. When both parents share that goal – environmental consistency – it is something we work towards cooperatively.
If you have already separated from your spouse or need to separate immediately, we help you determine spousal support during this interim period. This period, known as pendente lite, is the period during which litigation or legal resolution is pending.
Determining A Specific Amount Of New Jersey Alimony and New York
Arriving at a number can be difficult, and it can often inspire bile in one party and terror in the other. You may feel oppressed, even punished by how much you have to pay, or you may be fearful and unsettled at having to depend on monthly payments from a resentful payor.
During mediation, we address these issues directly. Each of you is invited to fully express your feelings and concerns, contribute to the discussion and develop and agree to a resolution.
Factors Considered In Determining New Jersey Alimony and New York Alimony
When determining alimony payments, we look at more than a dozen different factors. Here are just some of them:
- The length of the marriage
- Marital roles (including primary caregiver for children)
- Marital lifestyle, and each party’s monetary needs in order to continue a reasonably comparable standard of living
- Career opportunities sacrificed as a result of the marriage or to support the career of the other spouse
- Payor’s ability to pay
- Education level of the parties
- Work histories of the parties
- Health of parties
- Ages of parties
- Amount of temporary spousal support during pendente lite period
- Division of marital assets
- Tax considerations for both parties
However, these are just places to begin. During mediation, we do a careful, sometimes granular analysis to arrive at a reasonable, workable support figure.
In mediation, we look at the human element. For instance, if you haven’t worked for 15 years but you have a graduate degree, it may seem that your earning power is much higher than it actually is. In mediation, together, we determine the reality of your situation, what is manageable and fair for each of you, and adjust potential alimony amounts from there.
Together we look at your circumstances. The standard of living established in your marriage constitutes a starting point; both parties are entitled to maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living as was enjoyed during the marriage.
Factors differ between New Jersey alimony and New York alimony, both of which have recently been reformed. In September of 2014, New Jersey passed an alimony reform law, the specifics of which you can read here. Read New York’s maintenance reform law here.
Importantly, we look at the actual need of the recipient to reach a reasonable monthly budget and the payor’s ability to pay.
New Jersey Alimony and New York Alimony Options Through Mediation
In mediation, alimony is based on your specific circumstances.
You have several options for both New Jersey alimony and New York maintenance—there’s not one simple type that works for all parties.
There are multiple types of alimony in New Jersey. One option for New Jersey alimony is “rehabilitative” alimony, where the recipient receives alimony for a period of time to complete a higher degree or educational training in order to build or rebuild a career and substantially increase earning potential. Alimony may be scaled in this (or any) case, so that immediate and more significant support needs are addressed in the first years while a career or business is being built. Once the recipient is more self-supporting, alimony can decrease over a scheduled period of time.
Necessity plays a crucial role in determining alimony in cases like this—a non-working party is supported in becoming financially autonomous.
Other types of new jersey alimony include reimbursement alimony. When one party paid for the higher education of the other, and that education increased his/her earning capacity, the spouse who funded the education may be entitled to a reimbursement for schooling costs.
Term or limited duration alimony constitute another type of New Jersey spousal support, where a defined amount and term are agreed to.
Permanent alimony was replaced with the new term ”open durational alimony,” in the September 10, 2014 New Jersey Alimony Reform Bill. This generally applies only to long term marriages. There is a rebuttable presumption that alimony will terminate upon the retirement of the payor spouse, and that full retirement age is age 67, as established under the Social Security Act.
In marriages of less than 20 years in duration, in general, the term of support shall not extend beyond the number of years of the marriage. So, for example, a 10 year marriage would not result in a support obligation of more than 10 years, except in extraordinary cases. Most often support obligations are substantially shorter than the length of the marriage, as all the other factors are weighed, including what is equitable under the specific circumstances.
Importantly, the New Jersey Alimony Reform Bill highlights that neither party – not the obligor (payor of alimony) or obligee (alimony recipient) – is more entitled to a reasonably comparable standard of living than the other after the marriage. That means that an appropriate alimony award should not create economically disparate households, but rather should enable each party to continue with a lifestyle as close to the marital one as possible.
Options for paying alimony also vary. One such option is an alimony “buyout,” wherein the payor pays a lump sum, adjusted for the present day value, instead of making monthly payments. When funds are available to do this, both parties can find it helpful to fully resolve one financial component of the marriage in this way.
New Jersey Alimony, New York Alimony And Equitable Distribution
In mediation, we always return to your actual needs and what is fair in your particular circumstances.
Equitable distribution, the fair division of marital assets, impacts alimony. If one party will retain more of the marital estate, this will affect the alimony award and/or term. For example, parties may agree that if the Wife wishes to keep the marital home with all its equity, rather than “buy out” the Husband’s share, she may receive a reduced amount of alimony as an offset.
Marriage is a financial partnership. Many people enter marriage expecting either to a) support the other person financially or b) be supported entirely by their spouse.
Although often one party has earned much of the money in the marriage, this doesn’t entitle him or her to all of the marital assets in equitable distribution. The other party who has relinquished a career, supported the spouse’s career or has otherwise agreed to stay at home to raise the couple’s children, has contributed to the marriage (and courts uniformly make this finding), and we recognize and address this considerable contribution to the marital partnership in mediation. Your equitable share isn’t just what you physically, directly produced—it includes what you enabled your partner to produce, and the fruits of the partnership itself. Marital contributions are not merely monetary, and this is addressed both in Equitable Distribution and alimony.
In mediation we work together as a team to determine what is fair and logical in your situation.
Instead of utilizing an the adversarial approach — which some may envision as Shakespearean actors crossing swords, causing injury, and wearing ridiculous tights — the three of us form a team of civilized people (in sensible clothes!) solving real problems.
Imputation Of Income—In New Jersey Alimony and New York Alimony, We Look At What You Earn and What You Can Earn
If one party has not worked for a period of time, we don’t necessarily start with the idea that this other party has no income; instead, we look at what the party could make after the divorce based on their past work history, their education, and their current work situation. We also consider what the non-working party could earn if they went out and got a job today.
Imputation simply means to attribute or ascribe something to someone. During mediation and divorce, we look at the non-working party’s education and experience and come up with a reasonable full-time income to impute to them for the purpose of determining a fair allocation of alimony and child support. We may begin simply with something as simple as the income from a minimum wage, full time job.
Although the earning power of a party who hasn’t worked in 20 years is going to be lower than a party employed for the duration of the marriage, it’s still generally is not zero. We impute income that is feasible and fair, and then use this figure to help determine an appropriate alimony award.
Mediation Gives You The Power To Determine Your Financial Future
By working through alimony and other issues in mediation, we arrive at solutions that empower parties and to which the parties can authentically commit.
You may feel disadvantaged by divorce and alimony, especially if the divorce was not your choice. You likely have a lot of feelings requiring acknowledgement and attention before arriving at a workable resolution.
Mediation provides you a safe, comfortable, non-threatening environment where you are helped to make decisions that work for you.
New Jersey Alimony and New York Alimony are not easy issues for anyone. Mediation appreciates this fact, and still strives to make alimony easier.