For many women who face a divorce, the prospects of having to live on half of what used to support you both is frightening — especially for women who have stayed at home to raise the children and now face the prospect of having to look for outside employment.
Alimony is not a given in any divorce. In New Jersey, the court will look at a number of factors in making a decision about the need for alimony and the amount to be awarded. These factors include:
- The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
- The duration of the marriage or civil union;
- The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
- The standard of living established in the marriage or civil union and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living, with neither party having a greater entitlement to that standard of living than the other;
- The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
- The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
- The parental responsibilities for the children;
- The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
- The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage or civil union by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
- The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair;
- The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
- The tax treatment and consequences to both parties of any alimony award, including the designation of all or a portion of the payment as a non-taxable payment;
- The nature, amount, and length of dependent lite support paid, if any.
When making a decision about alimony, the courts generally do NOT weigh fault — meaning that even if your spouse was unfaithful, addicted to alcohol or drugs, or exhibited other bad behavior, this will not impact the determination of alimony.
Last year, the federal government threw a new wrinkle into alimony negotiations by shifting the tax burden from the recipient to the payer with the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This took effect for any divorce agreements entered into after December 31, 2018. Before the new law, the ex-spouse paying alimony was able to take a tax deduction on the amount of alimony paid annually and the ex-spouse receiving alimony had to declare it as income. Under the new law, the payer can no longer claim alimony as a deduction on their federal tax return, and the recipient does not have to declare alimony payments as income.
Payers may be able to argue effectively under the new law that they are not able to afford high alimony payments without the tax break, leaving alimony recipients with less than they may have received under the old law. If you are planning a divorce soon, we encourage you to speak with an experienced New Jersey divorce lawyer about what these changes in the tax law could mean to you, either as a payer or a recipient.
Protecting your interests and achieving results that support your needs is what you can expect from Murphy & Cistaro. Contact us today for your free consultation.