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Alimony Trial – Divorce Battleground

Alimony Trial – Divorce Battleground

Alimony Trial – Divorce Battleground

In New Jersey there are 33,000 divorce filings per year. Surprisingly, only 1% of divorce are resolved by trial.  Likely, the key issue in many divorce trials is alimony. A divorce trial is an alimony trial.


Alimony trial – surging emotions


Ineviably, the litigants in an alimony trial are emotionally charged. Conversely, the lawyers need to be legally competent and emotionally objective. Cheerleaders do not win your alimony trial.


Divorce litigants want to know their lawyer cares.


Of course, that is reasonable. You may wish that your lawyer is as emotionally charged as you. Bad idea. That mindset is unproductive. To the contrary, you pay your lawyer for good advice and judgment. Oftentimes, your best judgment is impaired during an alimony trial.


Interestingly, the New Jersey Supreme Court just issued an opinion downgrading a bank robber from a 2nd degree to 3rd degree crime. In a nutshell, the prosecutor utilized the iconic scary image of Jack Nicholson’s face in a recently chopped door. The prosecutor added to the presentation the scary line from The Shining “Here’s Johnny!” Making the bank robber seem scary worked.

The prosecutor wanted to win the case.


The New Jersey Supreme Court criticized the prosecutor. In essence, the New Jersey Supreme Court reminds lawyers to focus on the evidence. Extra judicial and prejudicial media is not permitted.


I posted my comments on the case on The Bold Sidebar Podcast. Link to the NJ Supreme Court opinion in State v. Damon Williams:


What does this have to do with an alimony trial?


In the midst of a hotly contested divorce, litigant expectations can exceed reality. Ordinarily sensible people can allow their emotions and new sensitivity to stimuli run wild. Of course, the alimony case is different from a criminal trial. The defendant may have exposure to a specific prison sentence –  let’s say five years. However, some defendants can get out of prison within a matter of months.


Alimony is longtail


Currently, a marriage of 20 years in duration can yield an open durational alimony obligation. Hence, if you are married for 20 years and divorce at age 47, the alimony may last another 20 years or even longer. The results of an alimony trial will set both the amount of alimony and the duration.


Open durational alimony can end


When the payor reaches full Social Security age, alimony can be modified or eliminated. For example, for the pay or retires at full Social Security age a court can find that the pay or is retired and terminate alimony.


Key for the alimony recipient – plan accordingly.

Consider that when your ex-spouse hits full Social Security age that your alimony may terminate. Obviously, saving and investing for that day is critical. Likewise, budgeting for the present and in the foreseeable future is an exercise in good faith judgment.


For the alimony payor

The trick is you must actually retire. Frequently, the payor hits the retirement age and continues to work. Nonetheless, the payor wants relief from the alimony obligation. Those two positions are in opposition to one another. The payor must actually retire in order to get statutory relief from the court. Sometimes, the pay or simply wants to slow down. An application to the court to reduce alimony may be worthwhile.


Beware, the second alimony trial


If the payor does not fully retire, an application may be reasonable but may result in another hearing or a mini alimony trial. Always consider making a deal to reduce alimony and/or The time of alimony as retirement day approaches. Try to keep in touch with your ex. There are deals to be made around the reduction, modification and termination of alimony.


An alimony trial is tough to get through for the best of us. Going through to trials can test your emotional limits like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash