10 years of alimony for 9-years of marriage.

The State of New Jersey has been discussing the issue of
“Lifetime Alimony” lately. However, in
this blog post, we are discussing “limited duration alimony” which most people
think is for a term less than the length of a marriage…. Except in this case:

In J.E.V. v. K.V., the Appellate Division allowed the trial court’s award of 10 years of limited
duration alimony to the dependent spouse of a 9 year marriage (although the spouse was looking for a longer term to receive alimony).

The facts, in a nutshell are as follows: The
parties were married in 1996 and had two children. Shortly after getting
married, the couple moved to California so that plaintiff could pursue a
fellowship; they then moved to New Jersey, where the plaintiff accepted a
position as director of surgical service at a major hospital in central New
Jersey. The plaintiff next opened his own dermatology practice in central New
Jersey in July 2001 and the defendant, although not “employed” became involved
in numerous charitable and fundraising events and sought to promote her
husband’s practice.

Unfortunately,
in 2002, the defendant began to experience mental health problems and was
ultimately diagnosed as bi-polar. The defendant’s psychiatrist testified that
she might be able to get a job but expressed reservations about her ability to
retain a job. The defendant’s vocational expert reported that defendant had
difficulty focusing and was deeply troubled by the test-taking portion of an
employability analysis she asked defendant to perform.

Relying
on the statutory alimony factors of New Jersey law, the trial judge awarded defendant limited duration alimony of $25,527 per month for the first two years
and $23,403 per month for the next eight years. The trial court ordered alimony
to cease in August 2019, when the youngest child turns eighteen.

The judge
found permanent alimony was not warranted because:

(1) of the intermediate term of
the marriage,

(2) defendant’s age, (3) her
failure to prove a permanent disability,

(4) her ability to earn income in
the future, and

(5) her success in past employment
endeavors.

The judge further found that defendant could earn
approximately $35,000 annually and would also have unearned income from the
cash portion of her equitable distribution award. The defendant (the dependent
spouse appealed).

On
appeal, the Appellate Division affirmed the alimony award and concluded that
the marriage was one of intermediate duration and that “[b]ut for the mental
health issue that arose in 2003 and became acute in 2005, the decision to award
limited duration alimony would be unremarkable.” The Appellate Division also
found persuasive that the record demonstrated that the defendant would be able
to return to the workforce. In reaching this conclusion, the panel relied on:
medical evidence that the vast majority of persons with the same diagnosis are
able to work; the trial court’s observations that defendant throughout the
eighteen-day trial and the evidence of defendant’s various activities.
Specifically that the defendant had been fully involved in the life of her
children and community, had traveled widely, played tennis, and engaged in
fundraising, all of which “require skill and dedication of time, energy and
attention.” The panel also considered that the defendant had been attentive and
fully engaged emotionally and intellectually during the litigation process. Thus,
according to the Appellate Division, a term of limited duration alimony – and
not permanent – was appropriate.               

So, to
those of you thinking that limited duration alimony is always for a term less
than
the duration of the marriage, here is the Appellate Division, in a
published case, once again dispelling that notion. This case also provides a
good discussion of how the alimony factors should be analyzed in light of the
facts of the case and to what extent counsel fees should be awarded in
matrimonial cases.

Matheu D. Nunn, Esq. blogs about a case which was recently decided in the Appellate Courts of New Jersey about the how the courts decide on the length of alimony in divorce cases.  

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Matheu D. Nunn

Licensed since 2007

Member at firm Einhorn, Harris, Ascher, Barbarito & Frost, P.C.

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