Most spouses who are either hoping to receive alimony or anticipating paying it following a divorce will likely want to know just how long the award will last.
New Jersey Statutes section 21:34-23 addresses this issue. For couples who were married fewer than 20 years, an award of alimony cannot last longer than the how long the couple was married, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
In this sense, New Jersey has done away with permanent alimony for most. However, open-duration alimony may be available to those dissolving a long-term marriage.
Courts also recognize other circumstances in which an award of alimony will end, either via the termination date in the divorce decree, the death of either spouse or even an earlier time, should circumstances warrant it. For example, an award of alimony can end if the receiving spouse cohabitates with a new partner.
Alimony and cohabitation
Alimony can end if the spouse receiving payments cohabitates with a new love interest.
Cohabitation for alimony purposes does not require that the receiving spouse and their partner live together. Cohabitation means the couple shares a mutually supportive, intimate relationship that is marriage-like in nature.
To determine whether a spouse is cohabitating with a new partner, the court will examine several factors, including:
- Whether the couple shares finances
- Whether the couple both pay living expenses
- Whether the couple’s friends and loved ones recognize their relationship
- Whether the couple lives together, how often they see each other and how long they have been together
- Whether the couple shares household chores
The fact that a couple does not live together does not automatically mean that they are not cohabitating for alimony purposes.
If a spouse is maintaining a marriage-like relationship following a divorce, many would hold that it would not be fair for that spouse to continue collecting alimony from their former spouse. The law closes a loophole in which a spouse could have the financial support of both their former spouse and a new partner.