Spousal Support

Often the most contentious issues in a divorce is settlement of alimony. There is something about alimony that strikes a nerve in divorcing couples.

Discussions related to alimony can be problematic yet can be addressed quite successfully within the mediation process. In divorce mediation we often talk about “spousal support,” as it is referred to in New Jersey. One spouse feels he or she deserves a certain level of support for a longer period while the other prefers to pay less money for a shorter time. Each party has a very different definition of what is “fair” for their circumstances. In the open discussion that occurs within divorce mediation, the parties can generally reach a resolution that works for them and their unique situation.

In New Jersey there are four types of spousal support: (1) open durational; (2) limited duration; (3) rehabilitative (used to get one partner back on their financial feet); and (4) reimbursement. The amount and terms of alimony are based on several factors, including the length of the marriage and the earning capacities of each couple. (The New Jersey Statutes specify the criteria to be considered by the court when determining spousal support.) While there is no set official formula or guideline approach as there is for child support, recent legislation in New Jersey has clarified some of the contentious alimony-related issues, such as what happens when the payer reaches retirement. The amount of spousal support also has tax consequences and impacts child support obligations.

Divorcing couples also may decide to divide assets and liabilities in a way that will impact how much spousal support will be paid. In effect, decisions about spousal support can have a substantial impact upon the divorce agreement.

Working with a mediator, divorcing couples can develop an individualized plan that works best for their situation. In mediation, couples are fully aware of their joint and individual asset and liabilities, review each other’s budgets and potential earnings and jointly create a plan that ensures that their interests and concerns are being considered. In divorce mediation, instead of spousal support becoming a sticking point it becomes one part of a larger plan for moving forward.

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