A major consideration in getting a divorce in New Jersey is how you will maintain the lifestyle that you enjoyed prior to divorcing. When people divorce, not only do their lives change, but their finances change as well, as they often go from double to single-income households. The court recognizes that you had a certain lifestyle while married and will consider that lifestyle when determining alimony or spousal support.
Divorces may be traumatic and stressful for the whole family. Feelings of fear and worry are completely normal as you start with the process. When it comes to economic issues, couples wonder if they will be able to face life under different economic conditions, or even if they will have enough money to live on their own. Who will get what? These and many other issues may spin around your head.
At Jacobs Berger, we pride ourselves on our ability to de-stress the divorce process in New Jersey by easing your worries as we wisely advise you on the steps you should follow to reach a satisfactory outcome in your situation. Call our office at (973) 718-7705 to discuss your unique needs and concerns when it comes to your divorce and the financial concerns that come with it.
Marital lifestyle –a standard of living
Marital lifestyle/standard of living is one factor of many for the court to consider in potential alimony cases. While there is no set formula for calculating alimony, the court examines the following factors, outlined under N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b):
1) The actual need for alimony and a determination as to the ability of the parties to pay;
(2) The length of the marriage;
(3) The age and health of the parties;
(4) The standard of living established the prospect of each party maintaining a similar standard of living;
(5) The earning capacities, educational, skills, and employability of the parties;
(6) The time that any party seeking alimony was out of the workforce;
(7) The parental roles or responsibilities for the children of the marriage;
(8) The time needed for the party seeking alimony to become educated or obtain employment;
(9) The history of each party’s contribution to the marriage including financial and non-financial contributions such as caring for the children and foregoing a career to raise the children;
(10) Any 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) Investment assets held by any party leading to income;
(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; and
(13) Any other factors which the court deems relevant.
3 Marriage Specific Considerations
1. Disparity in Income
Every marriage is different, but there are certain things that all divorces have in common. One of these consistent factors, although different in each household, is they all have a specific financial income that sustains the needs and wants of the household. One or both spouses may work and support each other, as well as supporting the household and family. Sometimes, only one spouse works outside of the home while one may be a caregiver or stay at home parent. In either case, whether you work or stay at home, it is possible that one spouse may make substantially more than the other. Of course, this does not mean that the person earning less does not equally contribute to the marriage. In divorce cases where there is a disparity in income, the court will look to the marital lifestyle and the standard of living to set alimony for the person who earns less.
2. Spending Habits Help Determine Financial Outcome of Divorce
As noted above, no one factor can determine the financial outcome of your divorce. You must establish what type of lifestyle you and your spouse shared before any decisions are made regarding how to maintain such a lifestyle. Did you take expensive vacations? Did you have nannies for your children? Did you spend a significant amount on entertainment or other “unnecessary” items? What type of home did you live in? Were you a stay at home mom that gave up your career to raise your children and live a moderately comfortable lifestyle? These are questions that the court will ask. The documentation that you accumulate and share with your attorney will often provide the answers.
3. Establishing Marital Lifestyle Does Not Guarantee the Same Standard of Living
There is no one way to establish a marital lifestyle or to calculate what you may be entitled to. However, an attorney will assist in demonstrating to the court that you should be in a similar financial position that you were in prior to the divorce. Divorce attorneys can assist the court in determining lifestyle by providing: bank account statements, answers to interrogatories (questions both parties must answer as asked by the other party), case information statements, investment statements, credit card bills, and testimony from you and your spouse. It is important to note that establishing a marital lifestyle does not mean that you will be guaranteed the same standard of living once divorced.
Post-divorce Lifestyle Impacted by Cost of Two Households
Post-divorce, neither party will have the same disposable income that may have been enjoyed during the marriage because the same income may not be available. After all, two households will have to be maintained with only one income in each household. This means that it is unlikely that you will be in the exact same position that you were while married, but the court will try to make things as comparable as possible without advancing a windfall to either party.
If you have questions or are seeking help with maintaining a comparable lifestyle post-divorce, contact our family law firm in Morristown, NJ today to discuss how we can assist you.