As a family law attorney, I field many questions from current and potential clients about every aspect of family law. One of the most common topics that clients have questions about is alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance. There are a lot of misconceptions about alimony, which leads many men to believe they will be required to pay a considerable monthly fee to their ex-spouse regardless of the circumstances of their marriage and divorce.
Many husbands who are considering a divorce accept that because they are the higher earner, they will need to pay some amount of alimony during and possibly after their divorce. However, this doesn’t always clear up questions about the amount of alimony they will be expected to pay.
Multiple Sources of Income
I recently had a man in New Jersey ask me a very interesting question about his current earnings and whether they would be considered if he got divorced from his spouse. This gentleman has been the sole earner in a 16-year-long marriage, and his wife has been a stay-at-home parent. For the past few years, he has been working several jobs to provide additional income for his family. These so-called “gig jobs” allow millions of Americans to supplement their income from their full-time jobs, but they aren’t always treated similarly when it comes to determining alimony. Oftentimes these jobs are temporary, and the worker may be a contractor instead of a salaried employee.
In this gentleman‘s case, he knew his additional income opportunities would be coming to an end shortly due to their temporary nature. He also was ending these opportunities to cut down on his working hours, which is understandable given he is also maintaining a full-time job. The question is, will his alimony be determined based on the additional income he has obtained for his family over the past several years even if he will not continue to make it in the future?
Standardized Alimony Criteria in NJ
Here’s how the state of New Jersey determines the amount of alimony paid by the higher earning party. Notice I said the higher earning party, not just by the husband. Many wives are earning just as much as their husbands, and some are even earning more. If the spouses have similar salaries, it is very possible that alimony will not even be on the table.
Alimony is determined by analyzing the factors set forth in NJSA 2A:34-23(b).
(1) The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
(2) The duration of the marriage or civil union;
(3) The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
(4) 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;
(5) The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
(6) The length of absence from the job market of the party seeking maintenance;
(7) The parental responsibilities for the children;
(8) 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;
(9) 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;
(10) 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;
(11) The income available to either party through investment of any assets held by that party;
(12) 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;
(13) The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite support paid, if any; and
(14) Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.
Determining Alimony for Your Divorce
So, let’s return to the initial question about having multiple temporary sources of income. The analysis for alimony is very fact-sensitive. Since it has been the status quo that this man has worked multiple jobs and earned a certain amount of income for five years, it is possible that the Court could impute him at the income he is presently earning. However, if it was always understood that the multiple positions would come to an end, the gentleman’s single job income may be used. It will all depend on the facts and proofs that are considered by his divorce attorney.