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Ask the Attorney: Can I Get Permanent Alimony?

Thomas J. Snyder, Esq. answers a reader's question as to whether she is entitled to permanent alimony in a divorce after 36 years of marriage.

Dear Ask the Attorney:

After 36 years my husband wants a divorce.  Apparently he fell in love with another woman (younger of course). We have three grown
children who are fully on their own. However I have never worked outside the house.  I raised our kids and helped him grow his business, entertain clients, etc. Since I have never worked, can I ask for permanent
alimony? 

L.L. 

Our guest blogger, Thomas J. Snyder, Esq.,  is a partner with Einhorn Harris.  Mr. Snyder concentrates his practice solely in Matrimonial and Family Law.   He has provided testimony in front of the Senate and Assembly Judiciary Committee’s with regard to the New Jersey Marriage Equality Act and testified before the state legislators and the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee on proposed modifications to both the New Jersey Adoption and New Jersey Alimony Statutes. 

Dear LL:

The answer to your question, “am I entitled to permanent alimony?” is unfortunately not simple.  In fact, resolution of issues involving alimony are often the most litigated and contentious aspect of a divorce.  Reaching a resolution as to the questions of:

  • how much alimony? 
  • how long should alimony be paid? 
  • What terms and conditions should or will trigger a review or modification of alimony?

these questions often result in months, if not years of costly and stressful litigation. 

In New Jersey, determination of a spouse’s or civil union partner’s entitlement to
alimony is dictated by statutory law. 

The law in New Jersey specifically states that, a court may make such orders as to alimony or maintenance of the parties based on what the court considers reasonable and just.  The law also provides the court with specific factors that it must consider in determining what the court believes, under the circumstance, is reasonable and just support. 

Under the law a court may award one (or a combination of) four different “types” of alimony:

  • permanent alimony;
  • rehabilitative alimony;
  • limited duration alimony or
  • reimbursement alimony. 

The distinction between these “types” of alimony is, generally, duration. Permanent alimony is the only type of alimony which is paid for a relatively indefinite period of time.      

In making a determination of the type and amount of alimony which a court may award, the court must consider a multitude of factors including, but not limited to, the needs of the parties and, ability, or a lack thereof, to meet those needs.  The court will consider also the duration of the marriage or the civil union, the age, physical and emotional health of the parties and, the standard of living established during the marriage or civil union.

These are just a few of the factors a court is mandated to consider in determining the amount, type, and duration of alimony.

As to your specific inquiry whether or not you would receive “permanent alimony”, the most compelling factors a court will consider in answering that question are the duration of the marriage or civil union, the disparity in income between yourself and your soon to be former spouse or civil union partner and, your marital/civil union standard of living.  Duration of the marriage or civil union tends to be the most significant factor in a court’s consideration relative to whether or not permanent alimony is appropriate.   The longer the marriage, the more likely permanent alimony will be awarded.  

Perhaps the most compelling aspect to any alimony case is the fact that a trial court has broad and substantial discretion with respect to its decision in rendering
an alimony award.  Anticipating how a Judge will exercise his or her discretion is the key to successfully and effectively litigating in alimony case and requires an attorney with experience in this area of law.   

Ask the Attorney” is a blog in which answers to your legal questions submitted to asktheattorney@einhornharris.com may be answer.  The answers to the questions are for informational purposes only and are not to be construed as legal advice or the creation of an attorney–client relationship.  The facts of each case are different and you should therefore seek competent legal representation. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

ReformActivist February 13, 2013 at 11:42 PM
Great News!!! The Florida Alimony Reform Bill "passes Civil Justice Committee in the Florida House with only two no votes Rodriguez and Stafford."- Deb Israel Way to go Florida legislatures, just a couple more steps!
Miriam Price February 14, 2013 at 04:41 AM
2B. Check out how the question from the alleged inquirer is signed: “L.L.” What, not even a first name?!? On top of that, no city/town either?!? These lawyers can’t be afraid a first name is going to reveal the identity of the alleged inquirer? Or maybe they stand for such things as Lying Lawyer, Liar Liar, etc. I have met very, very few people who were happy with their attorneys, matrimonial or not. As for the few who claimed to have been happy with their attorneys, I would later discover these people were lying: At the moment, they were too embarrassed to admit they had "fallen" for their attorney's tricks. Are we, here, going to fall for another one of their tricks? Wake up people! Attorneys are after wealth, power, fame. They conspire to create an artificial environment where their services are needed, a conspiracy aimed only at increasing the size of their coffers. Their “fighting for you”, etc., mottos, are purely self-serving, and their “achievements” on your case are only meant to have the effect of “throwing a bone at the dog” – to give you just enough “good” news to keep you enslaved to their practice. Of course, some attorneys do a better job than others in this area. No doubt these behaviors partly explain why a 2012 Gallup poll found that less than 20% of Americans trust lawyers. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/03/car-salesmen_n_2231760.html#slide=1831521) That out to tell us something is wrong…
Miriam Price February 14, 2013 at 04:41 AM
The second point that comes to light, Al Baron, is this: 2. We need to realize that – to start with – the allegedly submitted question and its alleged submitter are, in fact, fake - they are both fabricated by the blog lawyers themselves. The evidence is this: 2A. Take the statement "Apparently he fell in love with another woman (younger of course)". Here is a dead giveaway of the lack of authenticity for the entire allegedly submitted question: the phrase “younger of course”. The fact is that this phrase and, in fact, the entire statement – thanks, in particular, to the use of the word “Apparently” – has no legal significance whatsoever when it comes to alimony, but its injection into the story is needed by the concocting attorney in order to make the made-up question more realistic. The fact is that most people don’t drift apart in their marriages because of cheating, but because of arguments over money. Most women don’t get cheated on in real life, but it is attractive to act that phrase as a catch, for its “glamour value.” Yet it seems that every ex-wife you meet will always give you the same story “he left me for another woman… much younger of course…”
Miriam Price February 14, 2013 at 04:43 AM
1C. Now, check out the very extensive response provided to the one very simple question presented. The length is not intended to answer the question, but to lead you to believe that this attorney knows what he is talking about. Fact: any attorney in NJ will tell you that anyone with a marriage over 10 years can receive permanent alimony. Of course, these attorneys will not provide this simple answer because then readers will not call them and bring them additional income. 1D. As for the statement starting with “As to your specific inquiry”… nothing couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact is that when it comes to disparity in incomes, there are only two extremes… and both extremes – plus everything in between – ae always bad news for the future payor : (1) if the future ex-wife never worked, the argument will always be made that the wife never worked outside the house, has no skills, and therefore needs the permanent alimony to sustain herself; (2) if the future ex-wife did work during the marriage, and has everything going for her (an education, skills, etc), the argument will always be made that the wife needs permanent alimony in order to maintain the standard of life she enjoyed during the marriage. The bottom line is: arguments will always be made, not because they make any sense, but because they prolong the settlement negotiations and, thus, increase the amount of money going into the attorney’s pockets.
Miriam Price February 14, 2013 at 04:44 AM
Hey, good point Al Baron, except that attorneys are not afraid that anything they write will do anything to them in Court. As “officers of the Court” they, too, are part of the whole corrupt Matrimonial Law legal system. Here’s the real answer to your question: he is busy making money!!! Here is how their State-sanctioned scam works: The author of this blog, a matrimonial law attorney, fabricates a story, formulates it to read as if it was submitted by some real reader, even signs it (“L.L.”), and then waits for his phone to start ringing off. “Who are all those people calling the blog lawyer?, you ask.” Well,,, they are the readers of the Ask the Attorney column who have been convince that they want this guy to be their attorney! Two points thus come to light: 1. This blog is not a community service by the newspaper nor the attorney but a money-making tool for its blog attorneys. The evidence is as follows: 1A. Check how prominently these lawyers make sure they advertise themselves, both at the beginning and the end of their article. It’s an advertising campaign. 1B. Take note of their ending statement "Anticipating how a Judge will exercise his or her discretion is the key to successfully and effectively litigating in alimony case and requires an attorney with experience in this area of law." That is also part of their sales pitch: “such attorney with experience in this area of law” is themselves!
Dadzrites February 14, 2013 at 04:51 AM
We are in a CONSTANT STATE OF WAR that these Family courts are inflicting upon society. The draconian Family courts, are implementing RUSSIAN (SOVIET) FAMILY LAW, ARTICLE 55, 81 (alimony & child support), as the modus operandi of their operation. The state, the courts, police and other opportunistic entities, understand who is buttering their side of the bread-- for over a half century now. If you look throughout our past, that such incidents DID NOT EXIST UNTIL THE ADVENT OF RADICAL 3rd WAVE FEMINISM. The courts and all its agents and agencies, understand by implementing this BREEDING TAX against Fathers', that they are assuring their ongoing employment and TRANSFER OF WEALTH SCHEMES. Indeed, history shows us, that until Feminism changed the form of government and fed off of, and destroyed the modern two-parent family, that there were no such arrests, imprisonments, kidnappings and shootouts. Instead of implementing the law and empowering Fathers (not the courts) to control, direct and own their own families--the courts have caused a virtual WAR against our society, that not only costs the victims of this judicial and government feminist fraud, but also the taxpayers, whom must ultimately fund this madness.
Dadzrites February 14, 2013 at 04:52 AM
If you look at government court, police, feminist and other agencies growth whom directly benefit from this CONSTANT STATE OF WAR, that you will find that even now, during our 'recession' and/or 'depression' types of economy (which we will never get out of) it is they who are in an eternal growth and profit mode. Here in Chico, (again, during out depression) they are building a 65 Million dollar white elephant new court facility, at a time when everyone else is going out of business, and where families cannot feed themselves and mortgage forclosures go on unabated. It is time that the Fathers' Rights community see through this scharade, and do what we must ultimately do: i.e. eradicate teh current anti-law feminist court system, and go back to the rule of law where the Father: not the mother, owns and controls what occurs in his household. Indeed, re-implement that correct law--and courthouse/family arrests, imprisonments, and TRANSFER OF WEALTH schemes will dissappear, and we'll all be wealthier and healthier.
DNDINC February 17, 2013 at 01:51 AM
Sue You are SOOOOO wrong!!!!! There is no alimony or childsupport. Its now combined and called "family support" The alimony /childsupport only are spoken to determine designated amounts. I get a cupon book mailed to me like the bank would mail you a payment book for your car payment. Try not paying or falling behind. You better like goverment cheese sandwitches, cause thats what youll eat. They took [intersepted] my tax return even though I was regular with my arrears payment. All when I was ahead! No Sue if the court order says pay up /youll pay or sit in jail untill some one comes with enough money to satisfiy the arrears to let you out-till next month.
DNDINC February 17, 2013 at 02:02 AM
I neglected to tell you how I was ahead . At the time I got divorced I was ordered to pay 10 years alimony in advance! Im still ahead 0ne year.
TheNJIvoryGirl February 17, 2013 at 02:23 AM
It doesn't matter in NJ if you are abused, if you are the bread winner, you will pay lifetime until this antiquated law is CHANGED!
John Norris February 17, 2013 at 02:50 AM
For some reason I doubt you would be of the same opinion if the situation was reversed...
SockPuppet February 17, 2013 at 04:15 AM
Male supremacy is at last on the wane; it's understandable that people like you want it back, but it's not going to happen. Father doesn't, and never did, know best.
Dadzrites February 17, 2013 at 04:35 AM
SockPuppet (I think you mean Barack Obama--he's the SockPuppet of George Soros, Bill Ayers, and all of the other left-wing Marxists hell bent on destroying American society): Before feminism, fathers controlled the family, and society prospered. After feminism and single motherhood as an off-shoot of feminism took hold in the 70s, 80s, 90s and today, we have welfare, gangs, children in distress, children dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, teen drug/alcohol abuse, children with more mental problems than ever before, more young people committing suicides and homicides (see, Newtown shooting, Aurora and Columbine, CO, Virginia Tech, etc.), and 55 million abortions. I wonder how many mass murderers, more drug addicts, more gang members, etc., we eliminated by single mothers having abortions. So, tell me again about father knows best. These shooters and problem children are the result of single-parent FEMALE headed households.
Selene February 17, 2013 at 05:08 AM
Dadzrites, sorry you are WRONG. DadsWRONG. God I pity your arrogance and hate, your misogynist comments reflect your total ignorance and stupidity. I hope you have not fathered children and if you have I hope that they are in the safe custody of your ex-wife. Your sort of slime is the problem with our great country today. The misguided white male supremist who usually has a small penis and a never ending story of bad relationships. Pathetic.
Selene February 17, 2013 at 05:14 AM
What planet do you hail from? Go crawl back under your filthy rock. And learn how to spell. It's charade, not scharade. Alway the uneducated red necks with these filthy, nasty comments. Crack open a beer and massage your groin, it's your most natural posture.
Selene February 17, 2013 at 05:24 AM
John Norris, you can join this ugly anti-social neanderthal Dadzstupid, I hope neither of you have fathered children. Especially not female children, God help them.
Selene February 17, 2013 at 05:33 AM
Lastly L.L., break free from your husband. If your children are grown and out of the house, choose this opportunity to become an independent wonderful woman. Downsize your living accomodations, rely on friends and family to help you when you need it and get a job that will support your modest living arrangements. Freedom from your husband will feel so much better than waiting for a check from him. Remove the shackles, be independent and be the strong woman that you are. Freedom is power.
SockPuppet February 17, 2013 at 05:44 AM
The world isn't going to follow you backwards, pal, deal with it. It's fantastic, in the true meaning of that word, that you lay the blame on the parent who STAYS with the children.
Senzalimony4u February 17, 2013 at 12:34 PM
After sifting through the angry comments, I am glad to see Selene seems to be in agreement on eliminating permanent alimony also. Freedom isn't free, but lifetime alimony is.
Senzalimony4u February 17, 2013 at 12:46 PM
Selene raises an excellent point, the antiquated and standard 'maintaining the lifestyle' , should be eliminated totally from the consideration. "Removing the shackles" is precisely what NJAR is trying to accomplish by eliminating lifetime alimony and is necessary for divorced people and their children especially to establish some return to normalcy. Let a divorce be just that, a permanent end to a marriage, not a prison sentence.
Dadzrites February 17, 2013 at 01:53 PM
Ewwwww! Isn't it amazing when you put out facts about left-wing radical feminism, the left-wing feminists come out screeching like harpies with personal ad hominem attacks. Since they don't have the facts to support them, their only recourse is personal attacks. Even though I did go to college and got an advanced degree, as for Selene and SockPuppet calling me being a neanderthal redneck and stupid, that's the typical buzzwords and mantra of the leftist radical feminist. Selene, your personal attacks just exposed your real ignorance by calling people names when you can't argue intelligently and cogently. As for calling me a misogynist, you've got it backwards. Your vicious, hateful comments exposed you as a misandrist. And, regarding my misspelling, anyone can hit a wrong kee wyle typing. By the way Selene, my ex-wife has been married 4 times, killed her 3rd husband, and destroyed my relationship with my daughters through parental alienation. I've remarried once to a beautiful woman, younger than me, for the past 19 years. And, we raised a beautiful daughter together, and have a beautiful granddaughter. So, go cry in your beer feminazi. My second wife never wanted alimony from her ex-husband, because she was independent and didn't feel entitled like most of the radical feminist-indoctrinated entitlement women out there.
jeff dobkin February 17, 2013 at 03:19 PM
Stay on point: there are grave injustices in New Jersey being dealt out every day by the so called "Family" court system. At the center of ruining good people's lives are horrific lifetime alimony sentences. Not to mention the incredible bills pushed down the throats - and wallets - of unsuspecting spouses by matrimonial attorneys. After paying over $300,000 to his lawyers for a simple divorce to his abusive ex-spouse, my brother ran up over $60,000 in credit card debt to be able pay her over $5,000 a month alimony while he couldn't walk due to 3 back surgeries. Now he works 3 jobs to make $5,000 payments every month - for life, along with $2,500 a month child support (ends when the youngest is 23 years old), plus $6,000 a year to maintain a two million dollar life-insurance policy -- so in case he dies, she'll be two million dollars richer. Did I mention his ex-wife is able bodied and has college degrees in both education and computer science. She doesn't work, having won the proverbial alimony lottery. The "Family" court system in New Jersey should be totally reformed. But more importantly the insane alimony laws that are ruining good people should be changed. I don't think we need a stall tactic like a "Blue Ribbon Study" pushed on us by the family law bar and the good old boy legislators. We need real reform, and we need it now. New Jersey Alimony reform is our only chance to make this happen. Please join and support NJAR.
TheNJIvoryGirl February 21, 2013 at 10:59 AM
Did he answer? If so, can you point it out for me. Thank you!,
Nonnie March 05, 2013 at 09:37 PM
Whoa! What a firestorm. While I agree lifetime alimony should only be available in extreme cases (disability, age of dependant spouse, some have no hope of gaining employment if they are too old and have no prior education) I think some of you will be happy to hear that a friend of mine did in fact have his LT alimony eliminated. He paid $4,500 per month for about 10 years (just alimony, children were grown). He moved out of state after selling his business convinced the courts he was retired and could no longer pay (he now owns a business). Guess what...he got his modification and no longer has to pay a cent of the "lifetime" alimony he was ordered (he actually agreed) to pay at the time of his divorce. To say it's impossible to get out of it is not always the case. So there is hope out there for the payor spouse. Don't give up trying.
jeff dobkin March 06, 2013 at 02:48 PM
Thanks, Mr. Frisbee… For pointing out how bias this article is, and for siting it as a promotional piece for the New Jersey Bar. You are very correct. It's slanted, biased, and also - very untrue in many of its facts.
jeff dobkin March 06, 2013 at 03:27 PM
A word about this biased and slanted article. Mr. Snyder did say something very ture: "The answer to your question, “am I entitled to permanent alimony?” is unfortunately not simple. In fact, resolution of issues involving alimony are often the most litigated and contentious aspect of a divorce. Reaching a resolution as to the questions of: Here is where we differ. I think the questions Mr. Snyder and most attorneys ask are: "How much money do these clients - both divorcing parties - have in their bank accounts?" And "How can I drag this endless litigation out - since i already told them this is "most litigated and contentious aspect" - so that they both won't notice when I siphon all the couples combined assets off the top." It's easy to find one case in 100,000 where lifetime alimony may in fact be justified. But for the other 999,999 cases where it is already an unjust lifetime sentence for one person causing an extreme hardship for the payer, and the entitlement of "FREE MONEY FOR LIFE" for the other, it is totally unjustified. I watch my brother struggle every day, at age 60, work three jobs to pay is ex wife over $80,000 in combined alimony, child support, and a pay for a $2,000,000 insurance policy on his life made out to her. She doesn't work although having degrees in computers and education. He was married to his abusive ex wife for about 10 years. No justice here - ever.
RoxyP March 11, 2013 at 10:04 PM
Not only well-said, Mr. Frisbee, but quite accurate indeed. I am currently involved with someone going through a divorce and is represented by the writer's lawfirm. Regardless of the side these lawyers represent (the "monied" or "non-monied" spouse), they are entirely UNinterested in achieving a "just" (as in justice, or judicial) result. Their only goal is to work on the case so long as they can be paid. Once the funds are dissipated in litigation, the desire to zealously represent the client ends. After 2.5 years of no resolution (or any fair or just proposals) on the issue of alimony (of course the ex is seeking "permanent" alimony), my boyfriend is racking up tens of thousands of dollars of debt to this firm (because they continue to send you the bills even if you've already paid them every bit of savings you've accumulated over your lifetime) for dispassionate and, worse, legally incorrect advice and representation. (Two of the partners at this firm told my boyfriend that he needs to find a relative to borrow money from, as they do not "finance" anyone's divorce.) It is extremely disheartening that human beings can so gleefully scavenge and profit off of the carcass that was once someone's marriage. The alimony statutes must be changed to ensure that the procedure for disolving a relationship no longer requires an "industry", but instead permits a fair and FINITE end to the pairing in the black letter law itself.
Debbie March 12, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Just responding to the "Ask the Attorney" discussion on permanent alimony. I don't think that this is fair. A set amount of alimony should be assigned and paid and then after that both parties should be free to either pursue work, unemployment or disability just like everyone else. The lifelong financial support should end the same time the lifelong vow/marriage ends.
David Perry Davis, Esq March 18, 2013 at 06:57 PM
Al - I'm a Family Law attorney. Like most lawyers I know, I'd always much rather do ten $1500 cases than one $15,000 case. I make just as much money, and (1) nobody is unhappy about spending $1500 to get to a fair resolution in line with the law and to have everything done right, and (2) no one -- and I mean NO ONE -- is happy about spending $15,000 (or more) on a divorce. Yes, there are some who don't share my view and run a bill. But it's not "most." Again, we make just as much off ten lower priced cases as to one higher priced case. Most of the time when cases get crazy and expensive, someone is being nuts or refusing to accept a reasonable resolution.
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