Our State’s Appellate Division recently held that where divorcing parties regularly saved a portion of their earnings during the marriage, that same should be considered as part of the “marital lifestyle” when determining alimony (support) awards.
In Lombardi v. Lombardi, the Court addressed a situation where the parties, despite Husband’s significant income, lived a relatively frugal lifestyle and saved a substantial sum of their earnings on a monthly basis (approximately $67,000 per month). While the parties differed as to the motivation behind their savings (Wife claiming it was for future security and Husband claiming that it was to afford him an early retirement), they both acknowledged that it was their historical practice and that they had amassed assets of approximately $5 million as a result as of the initiation of the divorce proceedings.
Consequently, Wife’s request for alimony included an additional figure of $30,000 per month as a savings component over and above the amount needed to meet her monthly budget. However, the trial court, finding that Wife (like Husband) would have the ability to invest the sums she would receive in equitable distribution (roughly $2 million), concluded that while savings was undisputedly part of the marital lifestyle, and that Husband undisputedly could afford to pay the amount she was requesting, that same was not necessary to provide Wife security in the event of cessation of support by Husband such that it denied her request for a savings component all together.
In reviewing the trial court’s decision, the Appellate Division conducted a review of the case law generated over the years with respect to a “savings component” of alimony and concluded that while the protection of income being derived through alimony may be a valid reason for including a savings component in an alimony award, that same “is not the only reason why a supported spouse requires savings, especially where regular savings have been part of the established marital lifestyle”.
As such, going forward, the Family Part “must in its assessment of a marital lifestyle give due consideration to evidence of regular savings adhered to by the parties during the marriage, even if there is no concern about protecting an alimony award from future modification or cessation upon the death of the supporting spouse”. In short, post-divorce, both parties should have the ability to continue regular savings if it was an established part of the marital lifestyle, not just the supporting spouse.