How Is Alimony Calculated?

Interviewer: So in terms of alimony is it called spousal support or alimony? How does the process work?

Alimony Is Determined By a Variety of Factors and Is Not Based Solely on Income

Tanya: Actually, surprising to some people, it’s not that under the law you look at the income and then calculate an amount. There is a statute and it is based on many different factors; it’s the length of the marriage, the age of the parties, the health of the parties, the each party’s ability to earn, and the standard of living acquired during the course of the marriage. Also, who has the children?

So you go through all these different points to show how much alimony should be paid or not. And you look at the budget that’s needed and the budget that’s available and you calculate a figure. There are in New Jersey some rules of thumb about alimony that are more “behind the scenes.” For example, in court, there are the statutory criteria.

Interviewer: That sounds fairly complicated, is there an easier method to determine amounts?

Explaining the Variables in Alimony Calculations

Tanya: The variables are first of all, what’s a person’s income? So you can have a) a wife who doesn’t work; however, she has a law degree. For example, she has a law degree and she hasn’t worked for ten years.

The Court Will Impute Income to an Employable Spouse

How much do you say her income is? It’s certainly not zero because she has the ability to earn. So you might impute a number that applies to her whether or not she’s earning that, possibly the salary is $50,000 or maybe it’s $100,000. So that’s how the income is factored. The courts will, even if you have someone who is not working unless they’re disabled or unless other circumstances exist, impute income to a spouse.

Incomes Can Vary Dramatically Depending on Profession

Then again you can have a situation in terms of what is the income of the parties? For example, with a stockbroker, one year he’s making a million, the next year he’s making zero and then he gets a job for $150,000. What’s his income?

Variable Incomes Can Lead to Disputed Amounts When Calculating Alimony

That’s another factor that we have put more effort into in order to arrive at a precise figure. Ten years ago he might have been earning this amount, but in today’s economy and based on his job history and what’s been going on, what’s the real number that we’re supposed to use for this person? That example serves just to give you a parameter of income and how figures can be disputed in terms of income.

In Some Situations, Alimony Is Not Merited and Is Not a Factor in a Divorce

And look, if there’s, if there’s a history in the marriage, and it’s a long-term marriage or even a short-term marriage, and there’s a big difference between the two incomes, so what does that mean? The husband makes $100 an hour and the wife makes $20. There’s a big disparity. Now, if you have a scenario where the wife makes $50 an hour and the husband makes $70? That may not be an alimony case.

New Jersey Family Lawyer Blog - Spousal support