A New Jersey Supreme Court ruling has provided much-needed guidance on determining the issues to be considered when a spouse in a divorce case requests alimony.
This recent July 29, 2015 ruling applies to divorce filings prior to September 2014. Subsequent filings for divorce are subject to the NJ Alimony Reform bill (A845) as reported on our blog NJ Alimony Reform
In Elizabeth Gnall v. James Gnall (A-52-13) (073321), the state’s high court ruled that the length of a marriage is not the sole factor in deciding whether a spouse should get permanent alimony or limited-duration alimony.
Here’s What Happened
The Gnalls were married for almost 15 years – with three children and substantial assets – when Elizabeth, who left her job as a computer programmer to care for their children, filed for divorce. James, the sole wage earner, earned more than $1 million a year as CFO of Deutsche Bank’s America Financial Group.
Following an initial trial court decision awarding Elizabeth limited duration alimony of $18,000 per month for 11 years, Elizabeth appealed. She requested permanent alimony, citing the length of the marriage and her diminished employability.
The Appellate Division reversed the trial court, ruling that a 15-year marriage is not short term and that an award of permanent alimony should be considered.
But the State Supreme Court said both lower courts got it wrong because they fixated on the length of the marriage. Instead, said the Supreme Court justices, NJ law (N.J.S.A 2A:34-23) requires that all thirteen statutory factors must be considered and given due weight.
So What Does This Mean for Me?
Be aware that the length of your marriage will not be the sole determinant of the duration of the alimony you may receive. Among the factors the court will also consider are:
- The actual need (of the recipient party) and ability of the parties to pay;
- The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
- The standard of living established in the marriage ;
- The earning capacities, educational levels, 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
- The availability of the training and employment;