Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, can be a very confusing aspect of divorce law and there are a lot of misconceptions regarding who is entitled to receive alimony during or after a divorce or legal separation.
Contrary to popular belief, you are not entitled to be awarded alimony because you are a woman, nor are you entitled to receive alimony because you have been married for a certain length of time. The truth is, alimony can be awarded to both men and women, and no one is guaranteed alimony, regardless of how long they have been married.
A person is entitled to alimony only when they are unable to fulfill their own needs without their former partner’s financial assistance and when their former partner earns substantially more than them.
Also, alimony is temporary in some cases, a person receives alimony from their former partner only till the time they complete their education, or get employed and become independent themselves.
How alimony is awarded
Alimony is awarded on a case-by-case basis and many factors are taken into consideration when a court decides whether, how much, and for how long you should be awarded alimony. These factors include:
- The length of your marriage
- Your financial needs
- Your spouse’s ability to pay
- The relative age, health, education, and work experience of both you and your spouse
That being said, if you receive physical custody of your children, you will usually be awarded alimony alongside child support.
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.
In some states, alimony may be ordered on a temporary basis, or until a certain goal has been achieved, for example:
- From the date a petition for divorce is filed until a final judgment is entered.
- Until the recipient finds the means to support themselves and any children involved.
- Until one spouse has been fully reimbursed for expenditures they have made on behalf of the other, such as tuition for college or a work-related program which resulted in that spouse earning more money.
This is most often referred to as temporary, bridge the gap, rehabilitative, or reimbursement alimony.
Alimony may also be ordered to be paid for an unspecified period of time after a final judgment of divorce has been acquired. This is referred to as permanent alimony––not because it will last forever, but because it must be paid for a specified period of time following the divorce, and possibly permanently.
The duration of alimony
If you awarded alimony, you will generally be expected to become self-sufficient at some point in time. However, if you were a homemaker for the entirety of a relatively long marriage, you may not be reasonably expected to become self-sufficient, and in this case, you may be awarded alimony on a permanent basis.
Otherwise, you can only expect to receive alimony for the length of time specified in your divorce decree or settlement agreement, or until one of the following events takes place:
- You remarry
- You or your former spouse dies
- You begin to live with with another intimate partner
Contact an experienced family law attorney
To find out if your specific situation entitles you to receive alimony during or after your divorce, consult with and experience family law attorney who has a good understanding of divorce law in the state in which you live.