Recently, a New Jersey man won a $273 million lottery jackpot. His ex-wife, having just divorced him last October, said she had no interest in rekindling the romance despite the man’s windfall, nor did she want any part of his winnings. She simply wondered if she could now stop sending the man his alimony payments.
New Jersey’s criteria for awarding alimony
Not every divorce involves spousal support, or alimony.
New Jersey divorce courts can order alimony payments based various factors in a presumably reasonable judgment call. Those factors are numerous, but a few can be:
- The physical and emotional health and employability of the spouse.
- How long the spouse has been absent from the job market.
- The living standard enjoyed during the marriage and the likelihood of the spouse being able to continue that standard.
- The opportunity for future acquisition of capital assets, income, education or training.
In our lottery case, the woman had been the primary breadwinner in the marriage. For this and probably other reasons not mentioned in media reports, the soon-to-be lottery winner was awarded alimony in the divorce settlement.
Alimony usually makes more sense
Of course, alimony is bound to look silly and inequitable in the case of the $273 million lottery winner. We shouldn’t use it as our guide to understand alimony and the criteria used to award it.
Some spouses derail or compromise a lucrative career to relocate so the other can follow theirs, or to care for their children for the other spouse’s ailing relatives. Educational and networking opportunities may be turned down and skills can become outdated to achieve the goals of the marriage itself. Marriage is not widely thought of a means to render one partner with few prospects for prosperity.
In the case of the New Jersey lottery couple, the terms of the alimony may be changed using a “Lepis motion,” in which the court exercises its power to revise the terms of the alimony, just as it had exercised its power so to set them in the first place.