Calculating Alimony in New Jersey and Pennsylvania

There are significant differences and similarities in the law on alimony in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The law in New Jersey is more presumptive of an award of alimony than it is in Pennsylvania.  The court in New Jersey is more likely to equitably distribute the parties’ property equally and then order a more generous support award.  In Pennsylvania, however, the court is more likely to equitably distribute the parties’ property 60/40 in favor of the dependent spouse and award less alimony.

When the parties have been married for ten years or more and there is a disparity in income, there is a presumption in New Jersey that the dependent spouse will be awarded alimony and possibly permanent alimony.  There are several different types of alimony in New Jersey.  Alimony may be of limited duration, to reimburse a spouse (possibly for paying for his/her partner’s tuition) or a rehabilitative alimony.  It is also not uncommon in New Jersey for the court to award permanent alimony when there is a disparity in income in a long term marriage.   In contrast it is very unlikely in Pennsylvania that the court would award permanent alimony.  It is much, much more common in Pennsylvania for an alimony award to be granted for a limited duration.  In both New Jersey and Pennsylvania alimony is presumably modifiable based on a significant (not temporary) change in circumstances unless the parties specifically agree in writing to make alimony non-modifiable.  Marriage is always a circumstance which terminates the alimony obligation.  Cohabitation may also terminate an alimony obligation depending on the circumstances such as duration and the financial contribution to the household.

The process for calculating the amount of alimony also differs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  Unlike child support there is no set formula for calculating an alimony payment in New Jersey.  There the calculation is based on the needs of the dependent spouse in conjunction with a determination of the payor’s ability to pay.  In Pennsylvania there is a set formula for determining the amount of alimony based on the parties’ income.