In New Jersey family law cases, alimony is a common topic for dispute. While the courts will have a baseline for how long the payments will last, there are times when it might deviate and adjust the order accordingly.
Generally, a marriage that lasts for fewer than 20 years will mean alimony will be limited to the length of the marriage. For example, a couple that was married for 12 years will only warrant alimony for a maximum of 12 years.
However, if there are exceptional circumstances, the court can ignore the durational requirements. This can be problematic and both sides should be aware of their rights whether it is from the perspective of the party receiving alimony or the party paying it.
What exceptional circumstances might lead to adjustments to the alimony’s duration?
The court will look at various factors when it decides to extend the duration. Age is a key consideration based on how old the parties were when they got married and the time of the alimony award. Older people might have a harder time supporting themselves than younger people and this could mean the award will go beyond the normal parameters.
The level of dependency is also important. If one was the primary breadwinner in the marriage and the other does not have the work experience, education or skills to maintain the marital lifestyle, this could mean that the alimony will be extended accordingly.
Health issues might be a mitigating factor. A chronic illness or unusual health situation are two examples. In some marriages, one person gave up on their career objectives or took steps to support the other as they sought to achieve their goals. Being a stay at home parent is a common justification for the alimony to surpass the customary duration.
Equitable distribution of property can be considered as a reason to adjust the alimony duration. Since property is distributed based on what is considered fair and does not necessarily mean it will be split in half, one side getting a disproportionate amount could mean the alimony order will be impacted.
In many marriages, a person is limited in their skills and education so they cannot support themselves. They might also have been a caretaker of a minor child.
Alimony can be complicated and professional assistance can help with disagreements
In short, the court can look at any aspect of the marriage and make its decision to either go beyond the common alimony duration or to even shorten it. With complicated financial issues, it is imperative for both sides to be protected and to have professional advice. This is true with alimony and other topics for discord in a divorce, high-asset or otherwise.