Normally, New Jersey Courts consider the parties’ earnings during the marriage as a basis for determining a payor spouse’s alimony obligation. Thus, the filing date of the Complaint for Divorce is a significant date as it marks the date signaling the end of the marriage. However, if your spouse begins earning considerably more income in his or her given field after the Complaint is filed, New Jersey Courts may consider the theory of the “momentum of the marriage.” See Dudas v. Dudas, 423 N.J. Super. 69 (Ch. Div. 2011).
The “momentum of the marriage” theory recognizes the reality that in many instances, one’s occupational efforts start off yielding modest level earnings, but may serve as a strong springboard into higher future earnings. Thus, the recipient of alimony may, in fact, be entitled to enjoy the benefit of an increase in the payor spouse’s financial picture to the extent that it was the “momentum of the marriage” which brought about the increase. Therefore, if your spouse developed his or education and experience in his or her chosen field throughout the duration of the marriage, and his or her income spikes drastically after the Complaint is filed, an alimony argument can be made that your spouse’s post-Complaint income is relevant for determining alimony.
Note, however, there are certain factors that may affect whether the “momentum of the marriage” is considered. For instance, the length of time between the filing of the Complaint for Divorce and your spouse’s increased income is relevant. The shorter the length of time between the two, the greater the argument for “momentum of the marriage.” Also, the field of employment in which your spouse is engaged, during which his or her income increased post-Complaint, must be the same field of employment in which he or she was employed during the marriage. If your spouse went back to school or changed careers into an entirely new field, the post-Complaint income is not as relevant for the “momentum of the marriage” alimony analysis. Also, a spouse’s post-Complaint lottery winnings or smart post-Complaint investments having nothing to do with marital efforts will likewise not be convincing.
But, if a payor spouse’s post-Complaint income is traceable to the “momentum of the marriage” and the efforts of the shared marital enterprise, same may be considered by the Court in equitably determining a spouse’s alimony obligation.