Earlier today, I blogged about a NY Times article published yesterday about proposed New York legislation to adopt no fault divorce. That articles also noted that there was legislation proposed to set up a standard formula that judges would need to use to determine alimony (known in New York as maintenance). The article noted that judges would still have discretion to modify those awards, but that the genesis of the proposed legislation is to prevent "widely inconsistent awards."
While New Jersey child support guidelines to use where the parties’ combined, net after tax income is $187,200 or less, we haves no such guidelines regarding alimony. Further, I have heard of no proposal to implement them. There is however, a dirty little secret called a "rule of thumb" that is often used to get a ballpark of what alimony should/could be. Simply put, you subtract the lower income (or what that person could earn) from the higher income and take one-third of the difference.
The rule of thumb is very simplistic and does not take into account any special factors other than income or earning capacity. It does not take into account actual taxes paid, lifestyle, sacrifices made, equitable distribution received or any of the other statutory factors. Moreover, judges cannot use this to calculate alimony if the issue is tried before a judge.
Do we want something like this in New Jersey? While it may certainly make things easy and prevent wide deviations you may get from courtroom to courtroom and/or county to county, one size rarely fits all. Rather, the statutory factors, if fully presented to the Court, and adequately considered Adan implemented by the judge, should result in a fair and reasonable award. The rule of thumb is a useful sanity check, but no formula will be able to capture all scenarios.