Can You get Alimony in a Domestic Violence Case in NJ?
Violent physical, emotional, mental, and financial abuse in a relationship bears many hidden tragedies. Not only do victims of domestic violence often suffer physical and emotional injury, perhaps bruises, broken bones, and fear that affects their health and mental wellbeing, but often victims of abuse are financially threatened with economic deprivation, poverty, starvation, and homelessness. To address these solemn facts, the New Jersey legislature enacted laws that protect victims and punish those who inflict domestic violence upon them in any of the numerous recognized forms. As such, the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, the same legislation that allows domestic violence victims to obtain restraining orders, allows domestic violence victims financial support from those subject to TROs and FROs.
The Plaintiff has Rights when Subjected to Domestic Violence
The Act permits domestic violence plaintiffs to seek restraining orders in the Family Court to ensure the safety and protection of the victim and household, including children, roommates, and others endangered by the person on the other side of the case (the defendant). This often includes alternative locations like the victim’s school or work in addition to the primary and any secondary residences. A restraining order also includes seizure of the defendant’s weapons, as well as child custody awarded commonly to the plaintiff parent, possession of the residence usually awarded to the victim, payment for medical bills incurred by the violence, possible visitation to the defendant parent, and potentially financial support of the victim and the children shared by the person filing a restraining order and the person against whom said order is sought.
The Act also allows a victim attorney’s fees in domestic violence cases as part of compensatory damages awards in a domestic violence civil action in family court. The fees are not based on the weighed factors in a traditional divorce case because they are compensation to a victim for losses sustained due to the violence. Attorney fees are available to victims to encourage them come forth with domestic violence complaints, so they can benefit from the full protections the law affords. This is true even if the plaintiff does not successfully prosecute their complaint, unless the complaint was made in bad faith.
What the Court Requires for a Restraining Order with Financial Support
To prove necessity for a restraining order, the person seeking a temporary restraining order must supply the court with evidence of the intimate relationship with the other individual; of the physical, emotional or other violence qualified as domestic violence; and the history of that violence that endangers the victim in the future. The court can then order protection, first temporarily, then permanently if the evidence convinces the judge of the necessity.
Evidence, such as medical records for treatment due to physical abuse and police reports may prove the violence, as well as personal and witness testimony. However, financial information is also critical if the court orders alimony to the victim and support to their children. The court considers records and testimony evidencing the parties’ monthly budget information, including all income and expenses. The court can also order the defendant to keep the plaintiff and children on health insurance policies available through employment or otherwise.
What is Considered for Alimony if Domestic Violence Happens in a Divorce Case in New Jersey?
Examining each party’s income, expenses, and life circumstances, the court can order alimony in a divorce proceeding. In a domestic violence situation where a restraining order has been ordered, the court can likewise order support for the victimized spouse and their children based on some or all of the same considerations. The rule of thumb is to order alimony for as long as one half the length of the marriage for marriages lasting ten or fewer years. After ten years, the judge has discretion on how long the alimony lasts. But since the 2019 tax law changed to tax the payor not the receiver of alimony, judges award alimony based on the statutory guidelines. Specifically, in Family Court, the decision to award alimony or spousal support is based on 23 factors the judge considers, which include:
- Need of the requesting party;
- Ability of the other party to pay alimony;
- Length of the marriage;
- Physical and emotional health of the parties;
- Standard of living maintained during the marriage (if applicable)
- Earning capacity
- Education and vocational experience of each party;
- Any gaps in the working resume of the requesting party;
- Parental responsibilities of each party;
- Vocational or professional career rehabilitation needs of the requesting party;
- Past financial contributions each made to the household;
- Property and debt split between the parties;
- Investment income of each party;
- Alimony tax consequences to each party;
- History of support paid during the divorce proceedings, and any other relevant factors
Can the Person Accused of Abuse get Alimony in NJ?
The PDVA says nothing about domestic violence perpetrators receiving alimony from the victim. Yet, despite failed legislation in the form of Assembly Bill A399 that proposed eliminating alimony for one charged and convicted of a domestic violence crime, current statutory law allows courts to decide whether being accused or convicted of domestic violence is grounds for denying alimony.
Questions about Alimony in a New Jersey Domestic Violence Case?
If you have been subjected to domestic violence or you are the one accused of abuse, it is important to understand any associated implications regarding your divorce and alimony matter. Do not hesitate to seek help from an experienced attorney well-versed in New Jersey family law, the guidelines, and the procedures in family court. Whether you are wondering if you can get the financial support you need while seeking safety for yourself and your loved ones, or you need to protect yourself against unfounded claims of domestic violence in a pending divorce or restraining order case, arm yourself with legal protection. Contact our law office to speak with a lawyer about your particular case free of charge. We are available to assist you anytime by calling 908-336-5008 or reaching out online.