Your marriage is insufferable. In fact, it’s to the point that divorce seems your only option. Yet, you’re terrified that you won’t financially make it. Meanwhile, you’ve heard that you need to be married a set number of years before you can collect alimony. You’re scared and feel very alone.
Four years into your marriage, you and your husband made a decision. You would stay home and raise your children while he finished school and started his medical practice. As far as you’re concerned, sacrificing your own career made sense. Then, the unthinkable happened. You learned that your husband was not just interested in his patients. When you discovered that he was having an affair with his receptionist, you were beyond devastated.
To top it off, you also received some grim news. Perhaps your cancer diagnosis made your husband stray. You have no idea how you can support the household when he leaves. Sure, you expect an award for child support payments. However, that’s intended for your children. What now?
Recent Court Decision on Alimony Payments
A recent decision by the New Jersey Appellate Division provides some fascinating insight into how the court may treat spousal support under current New Jersey law. It is important to note, however, that the opinion is unpublished. Practically speaking, that means this decision only applies to the parties in this specific case. However, it is still n interesting look at how the Court uses New Jersey spousal support laws, changed dramatically in 2014. Before reviewing the case, it is helpful to understand current spousal support laws.
New Jersey Alimony Laws
Under current law, there are four types of alimony: open durational alimony, rehabilitative alimony, limited duration alimony, and reimbursement alimony. Rehabilitative and reimbursement alimony are only used in limited circumstances. Durational alimony is what most people typically think of when they consider spousal support. Limited duration alimony has a set end-date, while open durational alimony will continue until the court orders otherwise.
Open durational alimony is typically only granted in marriages that have lasted twenty years or longer, while in cases of shorter marriages durational alimony is generally awarded for the length of the marriage. However, the duration of spousal support is at the discretion of the court. There are several factors that the court will consider, including but not limited to:
• The age of the parties
• The degree of dependency of one party to another
• Chronic illness
If the court finds that extraordinary circumstances exist it must either modify the duration of the support or explain why it refused to do so.
Alimony for a Short Term Marriage
In Friel v. Braun-Friel, the parties were married in October of 2010. A complaint for divorce was filed only a little over two years later. The major point of contention in the divorce was the wife’s request for alimony from the husband. In truth, it was the reason the case made it to the Appellate Division.
According to the history, the husband was aware his wife faced significant health issues before the marriage. Ultimately, those health issues led to her permanent disability shortly after they were married. In conjunction with the divorce proceedings, a doctor evaluated Ms. Braun-Friel and concluded that she was incapable of working.
The trial court, in this case, found that the wife possessed two of the exceptional circumstances that can require extended support. Specifically, this included the degree of her dependency on her husband, as well as her history of chronic illness. Despite this finding, the trial court awarded the wife alimony only for the duration of the marriage. In sum, Mr. Friel was only required to pay spousal support for two years.
However, this presented an issue that did not seemingly comply with the Legislature’s intentions. The trial court did not address why it did not grant open durational alimony despite finding two exceptional factors that called for an extended duration. The wife appealed this decision on three points, one of which was the court’s failure to award extended alimony duration or provide grounds for refusing to do so despite finding two exceptional factors existed.
Upon review by the Appellate Division, the court agreed with the wife on three separate points, including her argument regarding the duration of her alimony award. The case was remanded to the lower court for renewed consideration of open duration alimony.
Have questions regarding alimony and how it is computed? Our office can explain how the law works and provide you with experienced legal advice. Contact the Law Office of Samuel J. Stoia today for a free consultation.