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Comparing Rights To Alimony In New Jersey And Pennsylvania

Date Added: February 24, 2009 02:10:22 PM
Author: Lawrence Tomar, Esq. Partner, Kamensky♦Cohen
Category:
Comparing Rights To Alimony In New Jersey And Pennsylvania
by Lawrence Tomar, Esq.
Partner, Kamensky♦Cohen


IN NEW JERSEY


Generally speaking, there is a presumption in New Jersey that a spouse married more than ten years, whose earnings or earning capacity is less than the other spouse, is entitled to alimony. Under these circumstances, where there is a ten-year or longer marriage, a Judge must presume that alimony will be indefinite in nature, meaning that it will continue in effect until a change in circumstances for instance, an increase in the dependent spouse’s income or re-marriage or retirement or loss of employment by the spouse paying alimony. But, even for a less than ten year marriage, alimony may be indefinite, especially where there is a large disparity in income, particularly where the dependent spouse is the primary caretaker of young children
Aside from “indefinite alimony ” as described above, there are other forms of alimony in New Jersey, as well. For instance, “rehabilitative alimony” and “reimbursement alimony.” Simply stated, rehabilitative alimony is alimony paid for a specified amount for a set term to enable the dependent spouse to return to work and support him/herself. Reimbursement alimony is when one spouse is reimbursing the other for contribution to the other spouse’s educational costs or for supporting that spouse while the spouse was in school or furthering his or her career during their marriage.
The three types of alimony described above apply when there is a court hearing and a judge must make a decision. An agreement as to the amount and duration or alimony is presumed to be modifiable based on future circumstances unless the parties agree, in writing, that the agreement is nonmodifiable. This is consistent with a case known as Lepis, which sets the initial standard for the assessment of alimony. When we write a contract for alimony that is to be nonmodifiable, there is certain legal language that must be inserted in the contract which is known as anti-Lepis language.
Parties in New Jersey are, however, free to make their own agreement as to alimony although an alimony order cannot be approved by the court in New Jersey without the judge making an inquiry as to whether or not the dependent spouse is capable of supporting himself or herself on the amount agreed. If it is agreed to by both parties that there is no alimony, the judge must make a determination as to whether the dependent spouse can support herself on her income or assets alone.
In New Jersey, there is no set formula for alimony, so the amount of the alimony is at the discretion of the judge, or as the parties may agree. This is unlike child support, which is subject to a set formula. Often in New Jersey, alimony is needs-based, rather than income-based, meaning that a court will look to the reasonable needs of the dependent spouse in determining what alimony is to be paid. Obviously, the income of the paying spouse is also a consideration since a party cannot pay in alimony more money than they make. Generally speaking, however, alimony awards in New Jersey are higher than in Pennsylvania.

Also, if an agreement is made to divide property, including pensions, and each party gets a portion of the pension, the spouse who receives alimony will lose his/her alimony when the other spouse retires receiving only the amount of the pension agreed upon. However, the end of alimony payment is not automatic and the person whose pension it is must go back to court to have the alimony vacated, unless he or she can reach an agreement with their ex-spouse. This is to assure that where retirement benefits are divided, the dependent spouse cannot claim later, after receiving his or her share of the pension, that they still should get alimony based on the ex-husband or wife’s share of the pension.


IN PENNSYLVANIA


The criteria for alimony in Pennsylvania is substantially different from the criteria for alimony in New Jersey. In Pennsylvania, indefinite alimony is much rarer and there is a set formula for alimony. An example of the formula is as follows. Where there is child support, the dependent spouse (for example purposes, “the wife”) receives 30 percent of the difference between the husband’s net income and the child support husband is paying, and her net income. For example, assume the following facts for the formula: Husband makes $7,000.00 per month net income. He pays $1,000.00 per month in child support and Wife’s income is $3,000.00 per month, net. The calculation is as follows:
Husband's net income: $ 7,000.00
Child Support - $ 1,000.00
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$ 6,000.00
Wife's net income: - $ 3,000.00
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Alimony Total: $ 3,000.00 x .30 = $10000.00/mo

Where there are no children and the paying spouse is not paying child support, the formula is simpler. Wife receives 40 percent of the difference between husband’s net income and wife’s net income. Net income is defined as income after payment of taxes and all required deductions from pay. However, various tax write-offs can be added back to the net income to make the income higher. For example, if a person takes depreciation, depreciation is a legitimate tax write-off. However, the support court will not consider depreciation and will add depreciation back into the net income. This is for a person who is self-employed.
In any event, the formula for alimony without dependent children is as follows:
Paying Spouse's net income $ 7,000.00
Dependant spouse's net income - $ 4,000.00
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Total: $ 3,000.00 x .40 = $1,200.00
In Pennsylvania, the issue of alimony is first decided by a person known as Master. The Master is a county employee whose purpose is to mediate disputes and, if necessary, to conduct

an informal hearing or inquiry into the facts. The Master will look at each party’s income and apply the statutory criteria to come up with a result. Generally speaking, except for very long-term marriages, alimony in Pennsylvania, or at least in Bucks County, is usually for a set term. Often, a dependent spouse will get a greater percentage of the marital property, but the alimony will be limited to a term.
Just like in New Jersey, there are no set limits for the period of a marriage for purposes of determining alimony. Obviously, the shorter the marriage, the less likely it is that the dependent spouse will receive alimony. This is especially true for young couples. However, when a divorce complaint is filed, the dependent spouse may file for alimony pendente lite, which means alimony ‘pending the divorce’ and will receive alimony until there is a final resolution. This could take up to two years depending upon the desire of the parties to settle things promptly. However, in Pennsylvania if a spouse does not sign a Consent to Divorce, meaning the case can proceed to the Master’s office, the court can, in its discretion, say that if the consent is not signed, you will not receive alimony.
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What is wrongful death? Wrongful death is untimely death caused by negligence or the direct actions of an individual or organization. A party may be held responsible for another’s death if their actions or failure to act caused the death of another or injury which led to death. What are some causes of wrongful death? Wrongful death may be caused at any time and almost anywhere. If an individual has the ability to save another person’s life and refrains from doing so, he or she may be held liable for the other person’s death. More commonly, a person’s direct actions cause the death of another individual. This may include: • Medical malpractice • Car or truck accidents • Negligence • Product liability • Nursing home abuse • Murder • Others Who can seek damages for wrongful death?
Questions about Wrongful Death
What is wrongful death? Wrongful death is untimely death caused by negligence or the direct actions of an individual or organization. A party may be held responsible for another’s death if their actions or failure to act caused the death of another or injury which led to death. What are some causes of wrongful death? Wrongful death may be caused at any time and almost anywhere. If an individual has the ability to save another person’s life and refrains from doing so, he or she may be held liable for the other person’s death. More commonly, a person’s direct actions cause the death of another individual. This may include: • Medical malpractice • Car or truck accidents • Negligence • Product liability • Nursing home abuse • Murder • Others Who can seek damages for wrongful death?
Questions about Wrongful Death
What is wrongful death? Wrongful death is untimely death caused by negligence or the direct actions of an individual or organization. A party may be held responsible for another’s death if their actions or failure to act caused the death of another or injury which led to death. What are some causes of wrongful death? Wrongful death may be caused at any time and almost anywhere. If an individual has the ability to save another person’s life and refrains from doing so, he or she may be held liable for the other person’s death. More commonly, a person’s direct actions cause the death of another individual. This may include: • Medical malpractice • Car or truck accidents • Negligence • Product liability • Nursing home abuse • Murder • Others Who can seek damages for wrongful death?
Questions about Wrongful Death
What is wrongful death? Wrongful death is untimely death caused by negligence or the direct actions of an individual or organization. A party may be held responsible for another’s death if their actions or failure to act caused the death of another or injury which led to death. What are some causes of wrongful death? Wrongful death may be caused at any time and almost anywhere. If an individual has the ability to save another person’s life and refrains from doing so, he or she may be held liable for the other person’s death. More commonly, a person’s direct actions cause the death of another individual. This may include: • Medical malpractice • Car or truck accidents • Negligence • Product liability • Nursing home abuse • Murder • Others Who can seek damages for wrongful death?