CREATIVE WAYS TO RESOLVE ALIMONY AT MEDIATION

A significant issue in many divorces is alimony. While every case is not an alimony case, where there is a significant disparity in the incomes of the parties, and where the marriage has been long enough, alimony is likely to be part of the conversation.

The party receiving alimony is usually afraid they won’t get enough to live. And the one who pays alimony is usually afraid they will have to pay too much. These are common concerns and there are many ways to work around this so that each party feels comfortable moving forward in their lives. Here are some things to know:

Alimony Basics:

In New Jersey, alimony is paid periodically, usually monthly, over a certain period of time, depending on the length of the marriage. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as “permanent alimony,” (sometimes referred to as “lifetime alimony”) in New Jersey. However, there is something called “Open Durational Alimony” that could apply to marriages that were at least 20 years. However, it’s not an automatic. So if you have been married 20 years or more, don’t assume alimony is a definite.

Alimony is not forever. Alimony continues until you and your spouse have agreed in your final settlement agreement that it will end. Some common termination events are time (i.e. you agree it will only last for a specific period of time), the death of one of the parties, the remarriage of the one receiving alimony, the cohabitation of the one receiving alimony with another person in a romantic relationship (not just a roommate), the increase or decrease of the income of one the parties, retirement, just to name a few of the more common ones.

There is another creative option. Read on.

What Is Lump Sum Alimony?

Lump-sum alimony is also known as an “alimony buyout.” Lump-sum alimony or alimony buyout is when the payor spouse makes a single payment (or a series of defined payments) representing his or her entire alimony obligation. Lump sum alimony payments can be made by way of one (or a series) of payments to the other spouse according to a specific schedule, or it can be by paid through another asset such as an unequal division of a retirement account or the sale of property.

Something important for you to know about lump sum alimony or alimony buyouts is that New Jersey judges cannot order a lump sum alimony award. The applicable alimony statute does not give the court authority to do that. So the only way you can get an alimony buyout is by reaching an amicable settlement that includes one. This is why we strongly recommend mediation for parties getting a divorce. You can be more creative in the way that you settle and address the financial needs of your family, in a way that a judge cannot do.

Pros and Cons of Lump Sum Alimony vs. Traditional Alimony

There are several notable differences between a lump sum alimony payment and periodic alimony payments to consider. First, traditional alimony is subject to future modifications, whereas lump sum alimony is not. It is possible for traditional alimony to be reduced, increased, or terminated in the future. So the amount and length you agree on, even though it’s difficult to modify, could potentially change. On the other hand, lump sum alimony cannot be reduced, increased, or terminated in the future. Once you pay it, it’s done. So if your spouse remarries the day after you pay it, you can’t get your money back. Some people like lump sum alimony because it provides certainty and finality. Once you pay it (or receive it), it’s done and there is no possibility of the amount changing.

Additionally, unlike traditional alimony, when you accept lump-sum alimony, you don’t have to worry about the payor missing a payment or making late payments. Delayed or missed payments often lead to disagreements, litigation and more attorney’s fees down the road. Again, it’s the prospect of certainty that people sometimes like about lump sum alimony.

Finally, with a lump sum payment, recipients do not have to worry about how cohabitation and remarriage will affect their alimony payments. Under the New Jersey alimony statute, cohabitation and remarriage may be grounds for periodic alimony suspension, reduction and/or termination. Lump-sum alimony remains unaffected even when a recipient remarries or begins cohabiting with another person.

Is Lump Sum Alimony Right for You?

Lump-sum alimony has its benefits, but it is not suitable for everyone. Before deciding whether or not to settle for a lump sum alimony payment, discuss your case with a professional. If you are considering lump sum alimony, the experienced mediators at New Jersey Divorce Solutions can guide you and your spouse through mediation. If you would like more information, please schedule your Client Vision Meeting here.

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