Alimony, also referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is financial support paid by one spouse to another during or after a divorce.
Alimony is not a right: it is a remedy determined and ordered by the court to address any economic disparity that may exist between the spouses after they separate or divorce.
Types of alimony
There are many different types of alimony and depending on the state in which you live, you may be awarded one or any combination of them all.
- Permanent alimony: is typically payable until the death of one of the spouses or until the receiving spouse remarries.
- Temporary alimony: is typically awarded from the date a petition for divorce is filed until a final judgment of divorce has been entered by the court.
- Rehabilitative alimony: can last for as long as it takes for the receiving spouse to rehabilitate financially and become self-sufficient.
- Reimbursement alimony: may be available to fully reimburse one spouse for money spent on behalf of the other, such as college tuition or a training program which resulted in that spouse earning more money
- Bridge-the-gap: can be awarded to provide financial support to one of the spouses for a period of time, or to achieve a specific goal, such as education, or the acquisition of skill that will enable that spouse to become more employable and/or increase their earning potential.
Factors that affect how long you must pay alimony
Alimony can be paid in one lump sum payment but is usually paid in a stream of periodic payments. The question then becomes how long will you receive or have to make alimony payments?
How long a spouse must pay alimony can either be negotiated between the spouses or determined by the court. Generally speaking, however, alimony must be paid until the death of either spouse or until the receiving spouse remarries.
Absent those factors, state laws provide specific guidelines that a judge must take into consideration when determining how long alimony must be paid.
While state and local jurisdictions will differ when it comes to the totality of factors taken into consideration when determining the duration of alimony, the single greatest factor is usually the length of the marriage in question.
Shorter marriages are less likely to involve long-term alimony, if any at all.
In some states, the length of your marriage will be used to calculate the actual duration of alimony payments.
And in other states, if the duration of the marriage reaches a certain threshold (10 years, for example) alimony will be awarded for an indefinite length of time subject to modification.
Other common factors that courts usually consider include:
- The payor’s ability to pay
- The needs of the recipient
- Each spouse’s age
- The physical and mental health of each spouse
- Any economic and career opportunities that one spouse may have given up in consideration of the marriage.
Contact an experienced family law attorney
It is very important that you understand the specific factors governing alimony in your state so that you and your attorney can work together to support your position based on those specific factors.
Consult with a local family law attorney for specific information regarding alimony in the state where you live.