With an economic crash not far behind us and an increased cost of living on the horizon, the ability to save our financial resources has become a seemingly daunting task. If you are among the fortunate folks who have been able to set money aside throughout your working years, it is critical that you understand how the savings component of your lifestyle might play a factor in your marriage.
Undoubtedly, your individual savings, and the ability to continue saving, will only enhance your marital lifestyle. Should you have children, this discipline of saving will enhance their lifestyle as well, and the likelihood is that you can expect to reap the financial benefit of this wealth as your children go off to college with as little debt as possible, you plan to retire from the workforce, and you have the security to provide for yourself, your family and your health through the golden years. This is the vision we might all strive to attain in a perfect world. However, the reality is that not all marriages can survive the test of time, and you might find yourself in a situation where your marriage is on the cusp of dissolution. As you face the issue of spousal support from either the receiving end or the paying end, we aim to help you navigate your legal rights from either end of the spectrum.
In New Jersey, courts have established that the preservation of the marital lifestyle is paramount in determining spousal support, and the purpose of alimony is to assist the supported spouse in attaining a lifestyle “reasonably comparable” to that which was enjoyed during the marriage. Crews v. Crews, 164 N.J. 11, 17 (2000). In determining the marital lifestyle standard, the court analyzes numerous elements including, but not limited to, “the marital residence, vacation home, cars owned or leased, typical travel and vacations each year, schools, special lessons, and camps for [the] children, entertainment (such as theater, concerts, dining out), household help, and other personal services.” Weishaus v. Weishaus, 360 N.J. Super. 281, 290-91 (App. Div. 2003). It is important to recognize that savings may become a standard budgetary component of your marriage, akin to a component for groceries, vacations, and your monthly mortgage.
The savings component in establishing alimony is addressed at length in Lombardi v. Lombardi, 2016 N.J. Super. LEXIS 123. In Lombardi, the parties were married for twenty years, and throughout the course of the marriage, they were able to save a significant amount of income due, in part, to the husband’s multi-million dollar earnings. The wife contested that the parties spent approximately $22,000 per month on standard budgetary items, exclusive of a savings component. The trial court determined that “the parties’ ‘earning[s] exceeded consumption by approximately $87,000 per month on average.’” Id. As such, the level of savings was not only significant in quantity, but also fundamental to the standard of living enjoyed by both parties.
In Lombardi, the court concluded that there would be no difference if the parties benefitted from the husband’s multi-million-dollar income and spent it on luxurious cars and lavish vacations, or hoarded all of their savings into a vault and never delved into those reserves until retirement. The fact is that the marital lifestyle allowed for such discretion in the generous marital income and assets, and any subsequent alimony award should make similar accommodations. In reaching this conclusion, the court is likely to permit a savings component as a factor in a recipient’s alimony award so as to allow the recipient to perpetuate savings comparable to the lifestyle he or she had grown accustomed to doing during the marriage, and maintain a lifestyle outside of the marriage as he or she enjoyed inside the marriage. If you face similar circumstances and have concerns as to your legal rights, we encourage you to call Jeralyn L. Lawrence, Esq., for more information.