What is the Right Amount of Spousal Support?

I just recently collaborated with a family law attorney and taught a group of mediators my methodology on helping clients come to an agreement on alimony/spousal support. Oftentimes here in New Jersey, clients are looking for a “magic formula” for how much spousal support they can expect to pay. But the reality is that there is no magic formula, although many divorce professionals will use what they call a “rule of thumb”.

In New Jersey, spousal support is based on a number of varying points, which include:

  • The financial need of the receiving spouse and the financial capability of the paying spouse.
  • The duration of the marriage.
  • The established standard of living while the couple was married.
  • The age and physical and mental health of both spouses.
  • The educational levels, vocational skills, employability, and earning capacity of each spouse.
  • How long the receiving spouse has been out of the job market.
  • The amount of time and the expense that will be needed for the receiving spouse to acquire the necessary training to reenter the job market.
  • The parental responsibilities of the receiving spouse.
  • The contributions (both economic and noneconomic) that each spouse made to the household, and more specifically, the contributions the receiving spouse made to advance the career of the paying spouse.
  • The equitable distribution of the marital property.
  • Any income that may be available to either spouse through various assets or investments.
  • The tax implications of spousal support for both parties.
  • Any amount of spousal support that is being paid prior to the divorce becoming final.
  • Any other factors that the court may deem relevant.

It is important to note that these are general guidelines with regards to spousal support in New Jersey, but there are no mathematical formulas or “alimony calculators” that are used to determine a set dollar amount like you would find with child support.

The Approach to Spousal Support During Divorce Mediation

With traditional divorce litigation, it is very difficult to know how much spousal support (if any) will end up being paid and for how long. Because there are no hard and fast rules, lawyers may end up negotiating on this issue for an extended period of time. And as this area of the divorce is being negotiated, hourly legal fees get higher for both spouses.

If an acceptable agreement cannot be negotiated, then the issue may end up in the hands of the court. And whenever a court get involved, the outcome is unpredictable. A court looks at the aforementioned factors, but ultimately, they have a lot of discretion in determining who gets what. This means that, after a potentially costly legal battle, you could still end up with an unsatisfactory outcome.

With divorce mediation, we take a different approach. The mediation process allows the spouses to work cooperatively toward a spousal support agreement that both parties believe is fair. The discussion is guided by a neutral, third-party mediator; but ultimately, the process is voluntary, and no settlement can become legally binding unless both spouses agree to it.

In mediation, we take an in-depth look at each spouse’s earnings and monthly expenses, and of course the expenses for the children. We also look closely at spousal support in relation to other areas of the divorce settlement, which include child support, parenting plans, and the equitable distribution of the marital estate.

This becomes a very thoughtful process, and it can also be very eye-opening as most often couples have never been through this process before. As long as both parties are realistic and open to creative ideas (when necessary), we can assist them not only with the resolution of the amount and duration of spousal support that is needed, but also how best to help each of them going forward.

Contact AMS to Learn More about Divorce Mediation

Mediation is an increasingly preferred alternative to traditional divorce litigation, and this process allows couples a better way to resolve important issues such as spousal support. To find out more about divorce mediation and whether it may be right for you, call Advanced Mediation Solutions (AMS) at (856) 669-7172 or message us online for a free consultation.