Will I have to pay my wife alimony even though she can work?


Q. My wife just said she is leaving me. She has been home with our kids who are 15 and 13 and she says doesn’t want to work, but instead expects me to pay her alimony. There’s no reason she can’t work and I don’t make a fortune, but we were always able to get by. Will I be forced to pay her even though she can just get a job?
— Money worried

A. We’re sorry to hear about your marriage.

Alimony and child support are always important to understand as you begin the divorce process.

In New Jersey, the purpose of alimony is to assist the financially-supported spouse to maintain a lifestyle similar to that which he or she enjoyed throughout the marriage, said Jeralyn Lawrence, a family law attorney with Lawrence Law in Watchung..

The right to enjoy this lifestyle belongs to both parties, she said.

“In circumstances where one spouse fulfilled the role of homemaker or caretaker of children throughout the marriage, with the other spouse earning income to support the household, an award of alimony is appropriate,” she said. “However, a financially dependent spouse’s ability to work and earn an income will also be considered by a court when determining the ultimate alimony award.”

So absent extenuating circumstances, the dependent spouse will be imputed income based on his or her prior work experience, among other factors, which could include — but be not limited to — occupational qualifications and the average earnings for his or her former occupation as reported by the New Jersey Department of Labor (NJDOL), Lawrence said.

“While an imputation of income may not eradicate the supporting spouse’s alimony obligation altogether, imputing income to a financially dependent spouse will likely decrease the ultimate alimony award,” she said, noting that the facts and circumstances of each case are unique so it’s important to consult with a seasoned family law attorney to discuss these issues and considerations.

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This story was originally published on Oct. 20, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.