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Alimony in New Jersey – Basic Concepts

In New Jersey, the award of alimony to a divorcing spouse is provided for by statute: “after judgment of divorce or maintenance … the court may make such order as to the alimony or maintenance of the parties… as the circumstances of the parties and the nature of the case shall render fit, reasonable and just”. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23.  What that means in English is that payments must be made to from one spouse to another after the divorce.   The prevailing principle in fixing an alimony award, as detailed in Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980), was recently reiterated by the New Jersey Supreme Court: “the goal of a proper alimony award is to assist the supported spouse in achieving a lifestyle that is reasonably comparable to the one enjoyed while living with the supporting spouse during the marriage.” Crews v. Crews, 164 N.J. 11, 16 (2000); Innes v. Innes, 117 N.J. 496, 503, 569 A.2d 770 (1990) (citing Mahoney v. Mahoney, 91 N.J. 488, 501-02 (1982)).  “The supporting spouse’s obligation is set at a level that will maintain that standard.” Innes, supra, 117 N.J. at 503, 569 A.2d 770 (citing Lepis, 83 N.J. at 150, 416 A.2d 45); Heinl v. Heinl, 287 N.J.Super. 337, 344 (App. Div.1996) (same). See also Crews, supra, 164 N.J. at 16, 24 (same).

Thus, when discussing alimony in a New Jersey divorce case, the primary debate will focus on the incomes of each party as well as the martial lifestyle.