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What Is the Difference Between Separate Maintenance & Alimony

What Is Alimony?

Alimony refers to monetary payments one owes their former spouse after getting divorced, made from the payor spouse’s future earnings. Spouses owe each other a duty to provide adequate financial support for one another by virtue of the marital relationship. New Jersey statutory law is the source of a person’s responsibility to pay alimony to their former spouse upon divorce and reflects the policy that spouses owe a continuing duty of support despite the dissolution of their marriage.

What Is Separate Maintenance?

Like alimony, the duty to pay “separate maintenance” arises from the existence of a marital relationship between the parties. As a result, the obligation to pay spousal support does not necessarily come about as a result of getting a divorce. The idea of separate maintenance can be seen as “spousal support for separated spouses who remained married.”

Historically, courts established legal rules holding a husband liable to financially support his wife in situations where the two agreed to live apart. Following this concept, the New Jersey legislature passed laws to secure a wife’s right to spousal support.

Separate maintenance allows a spouse to obtain spousal support payments in cases where they don’t want to file for divorce yet, or otherwise cannot qualify for a divorce.

New Jersey Statutes § 2A:34-24 provides that “If an obligor shall abandon an obligee or separate from the obligee and refuse or neglect to maintain and provide for the obligee, the court may order suitable support and maintenance to be paid and provided by the obligor for the obligee and their children in the manner provided in N.J.S. 2A:34-23, as applicable.” Thus, a person who has been abandoned by their spouse is entitled to file a legal action with the court requesting separate maintenance.

A complaint for separate maintenance must allege the following facts:

  • “A subsisting marriage;
  • An abandonment, actual or constructive; or
  • A separation by the obligor; and
  • A failure by the obligor to provide adequate support and maintenance for the obligee and the children of the parties.”

Even if the plaintiff is not successful in proving the required facts for separate maintenance, the court may fashion a child support award per N.J.S. § 2A:34-23—the statutory section governing alimony and child support. Under this section, courts must consider the relevant circumstances of the parties, such as their respective financial resources and needs. When it comes to cases involving child support, Section 2A:34-23 requires courts to consider the following factors when determining alimony:

  • “Needs of the child;
  • Standard of living and economic circumstances of each parent;
  • All sources of income and assets of each parent;
  • Earning ability of each parent, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, custodial responsibility for children including the cost of providing child care and the length of time and cost of each parent to obtain training or experience for appropriate employment;
  • Need and capacity of the child for education, including higher education;
  • Age and health of the child and each parent;
  • Income, assets and earning ability of the child;
  • Responsibility of the parents for the court-ordered support of others;
  • Reasonable debts and liabilities of each child and parent; and
  • Any other factors the court may deem relevant.”

Consult DeTommaso Law Group About Your Case

If you have questions regarding a legal dispute involving separate maintenance or alimony, you should call a skilled attorney from DeTommaso Law Group. We have experience with negotiating and litigating matters relevant to spousal support and alimony. You can count on us to provide you with comprehensive legal services that focuses on your specific needs and that of your family.

Call DeTommaso Law Group at (908) 274-3028 or complete our online request form to schedule an appointment with a member of our legal team for a case evaluation today.