Many divorcing couples expect to deal with issues of alimony during their divorce, as the respective parties work toward an arrangement that allows both spouses to maintain a standard of living similar to that which they enjoyed during their marriage. Unfortunately, the stark reality can hit hard when the expenses double and the combined family income remains the same. This financial strain can be further compounded when one spouse request pendente lite alimony during divorce proceedings. A recent case addressed this issue, applying the provisions enacted under New Jersey’s 2014 Alimony Reform Bill.
The background of the case in question, Malek v. Malek, is as follows. The couple married in 2012 and have two children together. The husband is a teacher with an annual income of $90,000 per year, while the wife is a hairdresser who earns approximately $20,000 per year. Both parties filed for divorce in 2016. They are sharing joint legal and physical custody of their children. The wife, who is currently living with her mother, recently filed a motion seeking pendente lite alimony. So what is pendente lite alimony?
Pendente Lite means “pending the litigation” or “while an action is pending” in Latin. Pendente Lite Alimony is a form of temporary spousal support that is provided from one spouse to another during divorce proceedings. Its purpose is to allow the recipient to pay for his or her living expenses during the divorce and maintain a similar standard of living to that which was established during the marriage.
In this case, the parties’ married monthly budget was approximately $6,100; however, they do have have enough money to support both parties maintaining a similar lifestyle while living separately. Under the amended Alimony Statute, which took effect in September of 2014, the courts are instructed to consider more than simply the marital standard of living when determining alimony awards. In fact, the Alimony Statute requires the court to consider a myriad of factors, including “the practical impact of the parties’ need for separate residences and the attendant increase in living expenses on the ability of both parties to maintain a standard of living reasonably comparable to the standard of living in the marriage to which both parties are entitled.”
When issuing his opinion in the Malek case, Ocean County Superior Court Judge Jones stated:
“In many divorces, it is mathematically probable that following separation, neither party will be financially able to maintain the former ‘marital lifestyle’ on a pendente lite basis. Rather, both parties may need to responsibly adjust their expectations and their budgets, as the court may equitably enter a fair pendente lite support order under which neither party maintains the prior marital standard of living.”
In other words, a pendente lite arrangement must uphold a standard of fairness and consideration for all statutory factors of alimony, not simply the marital standard of living. In Malek, the husband argued against providing pendente lite support because his wife is living with her mother. However, Judge Jones decided that her choice to live with her mother, because of the couple’s difficult financial situation, should not preclude her from receiving support. Considering all of the applicable alimony factors and the entirety of this case, the court ordered Mr. Malek to provide $350 per week in pendente lite alimony pending the resolution of the divorce.
Contact a Bergen County NJ Alimony Lawyer to Discuss Your Case
The highly experienced New Jersey divorce attorneys at Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark assist clients with resolving alimony issues, including temporary alimony, during and after divorce. Contact our offices in Bergen County at 201-397-1750 to discuss your current situation and receive a cost-free initial consultation.