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When Is Limited Duration Alimony Appropriate

The rationale behind the implementation by the legislature of limited duration alimony was as a remedy to address a dependent spouse’s post-divorce needs following, “shorter-term marriages where permanent or rehabilitative alimony would be inappropriate or inapplicable but where, nonetheless, economic assistance for a limited period of time would be just.” J.E.V., supra, 426 N.J. Super. at 485-86 (quoting Cox, supra, 335 N.J. Super. at 477 (quoting S. No. 54, at 6-7, 208th Leg. (N.J. 1998) (statement of Sens. Kavanaugh & Martin))). The duration of the marriage is a key factor in determining alimony awards. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(b). Limited duration alimony, like permanent alimony, is based primarily on the joint marital enterprise. It is distinguishable from permanent alimony based solely on the length of the marriage.

In order to avoid misuse of limited duration alimony to the disadvantage of supported spouses divorcing after a long-term marriage, the law prohibits award of limited duration alimony “as a substitute for permanent alimony in those cases where permanent alimony would otherwise be awarded.” N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23c. Unlike permanent alimony awards, limited duration alimony awards do not require the Court to attempt to make the dependent spouse “whole.” Cox , supra, at 476. Limited Duration Alimony is an equitable remedy the Courts can employ to address a purely economic need. Id. at 476.

In considering whether limited duration alimony is appropriate, the court must consider the statutory factors relevant to alimony and the purpose of limited duration alimony, which is to address an economic need after a marriage of short-term duration. Elliot v. Prisock-Elliot, 2009 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1327, 15 (citing Cox, supra, 335 N.J. Super. at 479, 483). In deciding whether an alimony award should be permanent or of limited duration, the trial judge must consider the length of the marriage in context with the other statutory factors including the recipient spouse as principal caregiver of children, the health of the parties, prolonged economic dependence, income disparity, education and work experience of the recipient spouse. Valente v. Valente, 2009 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 331, 9. A limited duration alimony award was appropriate after a marriage of intermediate length where the plaintiff was educated with school age children. Id. at 11. When determining the length of the term of limited duration alimony, the court shall consider the length of time it would reasonably take for the recipient to improve his or her earning capacity to a level where limited duration alimony is no longer appropriate. N.J.S.A. 2A:34-23(c).

Case law demonstrates that a marriage of ten years will not be considered a short term marriage, while one of seven years is closer to the short end of the spectrum. Hughes v. Hughes, 311 N.J. Super. 15, 31 (App. Div. 1998); Dubois v. Brodeur, 2007 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 1612, 51. A marriage of eleven years and nine months was considered a marriage of intermediate length that warranted an award of limited duration alimony. Valente v. Valente, 2009 N.J. Super. Unpub. LEXIS 331, 9. Most recently, the Appellate division held that a 15 year marriage was not a “short term” marriage and thus an award of limited duration alimony was inappropriate. Gnall v. Gnall, 2013 N.J. Super. LEXIS 115, 30-31. (The award of limited duration alimony was reversed and remanded for an evaluation of an award of permanent alimony.)

If you are considering a divorce, and have questions regarding alimony, please contact our offices to set up an appointment.