5 min read
Is Alimony Really Gender-Neutral in New Jersey?
While we all know that families come in all shapes and sizes, one stereotype that we hear over and over when a couple is divorcing is: “The husband is the breadwinner, so he’ll need to pay alimony to his ex-wife.”
Today, however, that’s often far from the reality. In fact, a recent survey found that 29% of all stay-at-home parents are dads. Because of this, many courts are seeing huge shifts when it comes to divorce settlements. Today, more women in New Jersey are ordered to pay alimony to their ex-spouses.
Bottom line: Alimony is gender-neutral. Each marriage and financial situation is unique, more so than in previous generations.
Here’s a look at how alimony in New Jersey could affect you and your ex.
Here’s What You Should Know About Alimony Payments in the State of New Jersey
First, let’s once again dispel a major misconception, since it bears repeating. Alimony laws in New Jersey are strictly gender-neutral. Nowhere in the law does it say that one spouse of a certain gender is entitled to alimony over another. In fact, New Jersey alimony law is completely based on the needs of the spouses in question.
In addition, alimony should never be looked at as a ”punishment” for one party in a split. Instead, it’s meant to level the playing field and allow both parties to maintain their standard of living as much as possible after they divorce.
Alimony is also not meant to be a permanent situation. Instead, it’s set up to help the lower-earning spouse make the transition from being married to being single. The alimony period gives them a chance to get on their feet financially and become self-sufficient.
Unfortunately, the laws in New Jersey are vague when it comes to how alimony should be awarded. Additionally, the Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017 has further complicated this issue and “muddied the waters” with who can claim alimony as a tax deduction and who must report it for the purposes of paying taxes.
The bottom line is this—alimony negotiations are a complicated legal minefield to navigate and should be left to attorneys experienced in divorce law. That’s why we always advise starting to talk to your divorce attorney early to learn whether you’ll be likely to pay or receive alimony after your divorce is finalized.
Unlike Child Support, There’s No Alimony Calculator in New Jersey
You may already know there’s an online calculator you can use to figure out how much child support a person will pay according to New Jersey courts. Unfortunately, there’s nothing similar to calculate alimony.
Instead, there are guidelines given to the presiding judge to help in the decision of how much alimony should be awarded. These guidelines include:
- The financial need of the parties
- The ability for the parties to pay
- The length of the marriage
- The age of the parties
- The health (both physical and mental) of the parties
- The standard of living of the two parties
- The likelihood that each party can maintain a comparable standard of living
- The earning capacity of both parties as well as their educational levels and vocational skills
- How long the alimony-seeking party has been out of the job market
- Child custody and parental responsibilities
- The money needed to get educational or vocational training to acquire a new job
- The amount of money contributed to the family’s finances during the marriage
- The distribution of marital property between the parties
- Investment income for both parties
- The tax consequences of alimony for both parties.
But at the end of these factors is a “catch-all” that states any other factors the court deems relevant. These are vague because it just means that the judge can take these into consideration, depending on your unique situation. It doesn’t say how much these factors will impact the final alimony order. There’s no alimony table that lets a judge order a specific amount.
What this comes down to is an alimony decision is often a negotiation that must be worked out between the two spouses and their respective attorneys. This is often the easiest outcome for both parties.
Men Have Alimony Rights in New Jersey, Too
The bottom line is that men have as much of a right to alimony as women do. Ultimately, a judge will decide if the husband in the relationship is deserving of alimony based on the above criteria, or vice versa. Because the alimony law is gender-neutral, the final decision will come down to who has the most need for alimony and which party can best provide to keep their standard of living roughly the same as during the marriage.
As the gender roles and family dynamics of men and women continue to shift, there’s a great likelihood that things like alimony, child custody and support, and other legal issues will also shift. It’s important to remember that in New Jersey, men and women have equal rights when it comes to alimony.
Contact the Experienced Family Law Attorneys at Smedley Law Group in Runnemede, NJ Today
If you’re thinking about filing for divorce, you’ll also most likely be dealing with another matter like child custody, child support, or alimony, so you’ll need to speak with a qualified attorney. The New Jersey family law attorneys at Smedley Law Group represent clients throughout the state, including West Deptford, Woodbury Heights, Runnemede, and Westville. We understand how challenging this time can be for you, which is why we will fight hard to protect your interests, and the interests of your loved ones, throughout the legal process. Call us at (856) 251-0800 or fill out our confidential contact form to schedule a consultation. We have an office conveniently located at 750 Cooper Street, Woodbury, NJ 08096.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.