In an interesting unreported decision released yesterday in the case of Christopher v. Christopher, the Appellate Division reversed a trial court opinion granting the wife permanent alimony.
The parties were married 2006 and the Complaint for Divorce was filed in December 2004. Interestingly, the trial court found and the Appellate Division affirmed the tacking of the period of premarital cohabitation to the length of the marriage. Thus, the 8 year marriage became a 9 year marriage.
Even still, the Appellate Division found that the relationship was simply too short to award permanent alimony. Rather, citing the reported Cox decision, the Appellate Division again noted:
limited duration alimony is not intended to facilitate the earning capacity of a dependent spouse or to make a sacrificing spouse whole, but rather to address those circumstances where an economic need for alimony is established, but the marriage was of short-term duration such that permanent alimony is not appropriate. Those circumstances stand in sharp contrast to marriages of long duration where economic need is also demonstrated. In the former instance, limited duration alimony provides an equitable and proper remedy. In the latter circumstances, permanent alimony is appropriate and an award of limited duration alimony is clearly circumscribed, both by equitable considerations and by statute.
The Appellate Division in Christopher deemed this to be a marriage of short duration. Moreover, despite finding that the husband (a medical doctor) will probably earn more in the future and the wife (a personal trainer) will probably not earn enough to maintain the marital lifestyle in the foreseeable future, those facts alone don’t justify permanent alimony in a marriage of short duration.
While not precedential, this case is instructive because it is not unlike many cases that we see and that come before the Courts.