Michael Booth, New Jersey Law Journal

July 29, 2015

Trial judges handling divorce cases in which alimony is being sought must consider more than just the length of the marriage

when determining what type, if any, alimony is to be awarded, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled July 29.

In a unanimous ruling in Gnall v. Gnall, the Supreme Court said two lower courts failed to engage in a specific analysis in

determining which of the four types of available alimony should be awarded in the case of a divorcing couple from Ridgewood.

There are 13 factors to be considered in determining an alimony award, and the length of the marriage is just one of them, said

Justice Faustino Fernandez-Vina for the court.

“Our case law has consistently held that all 13 factors must be considered and given due weight,” he said.

The court did not tackle the issue of whether a statute signed into law last year by Gov. Chris Christie, in which awards of

permanent alimony will generally not be awarded in cases in which the marriages have not reached the 20-year mark, should

be applied retroactively.

The case revolves around what should happen when two well-educated people with excellent earning potential are in the midst

of a divorce after a 15-year marriage where one spouse gave up a lucrative career to care for the couple’s children.

James and Elizabeth Gnall were married in 1993 and have three children, according to court documents. Elizabeth has a

bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s in computer science. Her peak salary year was 1999, when she

earned $115,048. James Gnall is a chief financial officer for a major corporation. His earnings jumped from $510,000 in 2005 to

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7/29/2015 Alimony Not Based on Marriage Length Alone Justices Say | New Jersey Law Journal

$2.1 million in 2010.

When divorce proceedings began in 2009, both were 42 years old, court documents said. A trial judge determined that their 15-

year marriage was not a short-term one but declined to award permanent alimony. He awarded Elizabeth Gnall limited duration

alimony of 11 years at a rate of $216,000 per year.

The trial judge said that the marriage was “‘certainly not short-term, but neither [was it] a 25- to 30-year marriage,'” according to

Fernandez-Vina.

Full story to be posted later today.

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