This being a family law blog, we talk about alimony a lot. One reason is that, because there are no guidelines, only factors to consider, alimony is one of the more difficult issues to resolve. How many years should it be for? When is it permanent? What does permanent really mean? Is there a rule that you get one year of alimony for each year of the marriage or you get alimony for half of the length of the marriage? Is there a rule of thumb (formula)? In fact, we have recently blogged twice on that issue alone. In one post, wenoted that the Appellate Division noted unequivocally that a court could not use a formula. In another, we noted that the "rule of thumb" can be used by an expert in a legal malpractice case regarding a divorce to determine if the attorney may have committed malpractice.
An unreported (non-precedential) Appellate Division decision released on January 12, 2012 in the case of Newman v. Newman touched on a few of the above issues. While not boring you with all of the details, the following are the relevant facts. The marriage was just under 13 years in length and the husband was 51 and the wife 40 at the time of the divorce. There were two children of the marriage. The Court imputed $122,300 to the husband and $45,000 to the wife for support purposes. The husband’s actual income was approximately $88,000 but he was provided free housing as an in-kind benefit which accounted for the difference between his cash income and the amount used for support. The court awarded $27,000 per year in alimony.
Fun facts of this case: (1) the court awarded 10 years of alimony in a marriage of just under 13 years – a result that the Appellate Division deemed "reasonable"; (2) though budgets and factors were analyzed, when you do the math, the alimony was just under 35% of the difference – curiously close to what the so called "rule of thumb" would result in; (3) the court actually quantified an in-kind benefit – this is hardly done often enough though the Child Support Guidelines would seem to require it; (4) the trial judge deemed this 12 1/2 marriage to be "fairly long term"; (5) the husband’s counsel fees alone were more than $100,000 yet he appealed a $5,000 award to the wife’s attorneys.
Clearly, alimony cases are fact sensitive and, if tried, the result could vary from judge to judge.
Eric Solotoff is the editor of the New Jersey Family Legal Blog and the Co-Chair of the Family Law Practice Group of Fox Rothschild LLP. Certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a Matrimonial Lawyer and a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Attorneys, Eric practices in Fox Rothschild’s Roseland, New Jersey office though he practices throughout New Jersey. You can reach Eric at (973)994-7501, or firstname.lastname@example.org.