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  • Writer's pictureJosh Ormond

How Does Alimony Get Calculated in New Jersey?

Updated: Mar 13

When couples get divorced, one of the major issues in litigation is alimony or spousal support. Often, clients will ask “how much alimony will I have to pay” or “how much alimony will I receive” at the start of the divorce process. 

the Court will enter an award of alimony based on a number of factors outlined in the New Jersey alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.

While some might use “rules of thumb” to estimate what financial support might be owed during a divorce, the reality is that alimony is not based on a specific formula in the State of New Jersey. 

Indeed, there is no “NJ alimony calculator” where you can plug in your and your spouse’s information and get to an alimony amount that would be enforceable under New Jersey alimony law. 

Instead, the Court will enter an award of alimony based on a number of factors outlined in the New Jersey alimony statute, N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23. These factors include: 

1) The actual need for alimony and the ability of the other spouse to pay alimony 

2) The length of the marriage or civil union

3) The age, physical/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 alimony

7) The parental responsibilities each party has for the children born of the marriage

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

Note that under current federal IRS regulations, alimony is non-taxable to the spouse receiving it and non-tax-deductible to the spouse paying alimony. That means if you receive alimony, you are not required to pay federal taxes on those spousal support payments and if you pay alimony, those payments are not federal tax deductions.

13) The nature, amount, and length of pendente lite support - meaning support paid during the duration of the divorce litigation - if any

14) Any other factors which the court may deem relevant.

The Family Court Judge in your case will carefully weigh each of those fourteen statutory factors and determine what, if any, alimony or spousal support to award.

Though some argue a formula or guidelines to calculate alimony may lead to more consistent, fairer results, the New Jersey legislature has declined to adopt this approach. As a result, the Appellate Division has consistently held that the statute does not authorize alimony to be calculated through a formula. 

For instance, in S.W. v. G.M., the Appellate Division wrote explicitly, “To be clear,  N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b)(4) does not signal the Legislature intended income equalization or a formulaic application in alimony cases, even where the parties spent the entirety of their income. Had the Legislature intended alimony be calculated through use of a formula, there would be no need for the statutory requirement that the trial court address all the statutory factors.  The Legislature declined to adopt a formulaic approach to the calculation of alimony.

However, interestingly, in an unpublished decision issued on February 21, 2024, the New Jersey Appellate Division heard a case involving the modification of an alimony award and seemingly approved the trial court’s use of calculating alimony as a percentage of the Defendant’s income. The facts of the case are as follows:

At the time of their divorce, the parties consented to alimony payments totalling 36.9% of the Defendant’s income as a marketing director. In modifying alimony, the trial court set alimony in the amount of 33.3% of the income Defendant could earn in his new career working as a realtor. On appeal, the Defendant argued that the trial court erred in calculating alimony as a set percentage of his income because it amounted to calculating alimony according to a mathematical formula – something that the current alimony statute does not allow. 

The Appellate Division rejected Defendant’s argument, saying the trial court did not err in setting alimony as a percentage of Defendant’s income, “utilizing the same percentages as those utilized when [Defendant’s] income was established in the [parties’ final settlement agreement].”

While this case was unpublished and non-precedential, it is an interesting signal from the Court, perhaps opening the door to some mathematical approaches in how judges should decide alimony obligations. 

Contact Ormond Law today to set up a free consultation with a divorce attorney and know your legal rights when it comes to alimony and divorce.

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