"Rehabilitative alimony" was adopted in Lepis v. Lepis, 83 N.J. 139 (1980), which said:
The questions here are two-fold. First, is rehabilitative alimony to be in lieu of or in addition to permanent alimony? And, second, when educational expenses are necessary and feasible to
qualify a woman for the employment she desires, how should their costs be defrayed?
In Turner permanent alimony was denied because at the expiration of an 18-month rehabilitative period the total expected income of the wife "will adequately satisfy her needs and enable her to maintain the style of living to which she is accustomed." (At 325)
But if at the conclusion of the rehabilitative period a wife cannot reasonably be expected to earn sufficient income to enable her to maintain the same style of living "to which she is accustomed," should she also be awarded permanent alimony? (The female gender will be used throughout for ease of explanation.) The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to exert fair and compassionate pressure upon a wife, absent unusual circumstances, to develop marketable skills and obtain employment which will enable her to contribute, in whole or in part, to her support.
But clearly, when a woman has been a homemaker for many years and is compelled to obtain employment in the marketplace, she is often unable to earn sufficient income to enable her to maintain the same style of living to which she became accustomed during coverture when she had access to the income of her husband. No matter how many courses she takes or how much experience she acquires, her earnings often will be insufficient to enable her to do so. Following a divorce after a lengthy marriage she simply does not possess the skills, business contacts and confidence needed to earn a salary comparable to that of her husband, who had the opportunity and time during coverture to develop these talents. Under these circumstances it would be unfair and unjust to compel her at the conclusion of a rehabilitative period to live solely from her earnings, while the
husband enjoys the full fruits of the talents he acquired, in substantial part, during the marriage. For these reasons both rehabilitative and permanent alimony may, where appropriate, be awarded. This case rather saliently demonstrates an exigent situation.
These parties were married for 18 years and had three children, ages 17, 15 and 9 years. When the complaint was filed the husband had annual earnings of $49,500, but during the pendency of this action he joined another company and now receives an annual salary of $52,000, a guaranteed minimum annual bonus of $10,000, a company-owned and maintained automobile, and a $2,000 monthly expense account. His total income, including perquisites, now exceeds $90,000 a year.
On the other hand, the wife whose premarriage nonhousehold skills have diminished, if not vanished, is now compelled to enter the business world. As noted by Turner and Lepis, this will inure to her ultimate physical and emotional well being, especially following the turmoil and distraction of a divorce. But surely no one can reasonably expect her to earn a salary commensurate with that of her husband. She was accustomed to a living standard which an annual salary of $49,500 permitted, and it is difficult to conceive how she will ever be able to earn anywhere near that sum. Clearly, it would be grossly unfair and inequitable to compel her to live a reduced lifestyle commensurate with her anticipated limited earnings, while her husband is permitted to enjoy a substantially ...