In 2011, the Alimony Reform Act was passed to put an end to indefinite awards of alimony. Under the Act, the duration of alimony awards is generally limited to a period of months measured as a percentage of the number of years of the marriage.
So, the updated calculations are:
For a Marriage of 5 years or less:
50% of the number of months of the marriage
Marriages over 5 years and up to 10 years:
60% of the number of months of the marriage
Marriages over 10 years and up to 15 years:
70% of the number of months of the marriage
Marriages over 15 years and up to 20 years:
80% of the number of months of the marriage
Marriages over 20 years:
Indefinite period, based upon Judge’s Discretion BUT generally not to exceed Payor’s normal retirement age.
For example, a marriage of nine and three-quarter years (117 months) would fall within the 60% bracket. The durational limit of an alimony award would be 70.2 months (117 months X .60). Interestingly, if the marriage lasted four (4) months longer (121 months) the marriage would fall within the 70% bracket and the durational limit of alimony would be 84.7 months (being 70% of 121 months). Thus, a marriage lasting 4 months longer would result in a durational increase of 14.5 months.
The length of marriage is defined by the Act as the “…number of months from the date of legal marriage to the date of service of the complaint for divorce or separate support….” Where a Joint Petition of Divorce is submitted with a Separation Agreement, the date of filing is the end date for calculation of the length of marriage. It should also be noted that the length of marriage may be extended to encompass a pre-marital period of time during which the parties were cohabitating while engaged in an economic partnership.
For the reasons set out above, timing is important in determining the durational limits of alimony.