When Is Alimony Awarded In A Divorce?

March 25, 2023

When Is Alimony Awarded In A Divorce?

Unlike child support, which is ordered according to specific monetary guidelines, spousal support, or alimony, is awarded by the family law judge based on what spouses can reasonably earn. Usually, the amount of spousal support is determined by the state’s guidelines, but it may also depend on the length of the marriage and other factors. In some cases, a judge may consider the parties’ savings or investment habits.

Not Every Former Spouse Receives Alimony

Despite the common misconception, not every former spouse receives alimony in a divorce. In fact, less than 15 percent of all divorces include alimony as part of the final decree. If a divorce includes alimony, it is usually awarded for a specific reason, such as to provide a lower-earning former spouse with financial support to help them transition to a self-supporting life. The amount of alimony a judge orders is based on factors like the earning capacity and lifestyle of the recipient spouse, as well as the marital assets and debts of both parties. Often, alimony is terminated upon a significant change in circumstances of either party. This change may be something as simple as a new partner in the life of the recipient spouse, or as complex as a remarriage of a spouse to someone else.

Reimbursement & Permanent Alimony

Alimony is an important part of divorces, but how long it will last depends on a few different factors. The court will consider the payor and recipient’s earning capacity, as well as the lifestyle the couple enjoyed before the marriage. The court also looks at each spouse’s future employment prospects, including their ability to return to school or receive new training if they need it. If the payor is able to gain a job that pays more than their original alimony amount, then the payments can be modified or terminated. ​Reimbursement alimony is awarded for the investment one spouse made into the other’s education or business. This type of alimony will usually last until the recipient is self-supporting. Permanent alimony, on the other hand, will continue until the receiving party remarries or dies. However, the payment may be adjusted if one party gets a better-paying job, receives a major income source (like inheritance or winning the lottery), or incurs medical expenses not covered by insurance.

Rehabilitative & Temporary Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is designed to help one spouse obtain the education and job skills they need to become self-supporting. It is awarded in cases where the former spouse devoted a large amount of time to raising children and taking care of the home but did not obtain sufficient training or education to be competitive in the workforce. The recipient spouse can use rehabilitative alimony to pursue post-secondary education or to gain job training or professional certification in a specific field. This may include going back to school to receive a GED, enrolling in a trade school, or obtaining a professional license. Temporary spousal support is also commonly ordered as part of a divorce. It’s typically called alimony pendente lite and is granted to support the dependent spouse while the divorce process is pending. How long alimony payments last is usually based on the length of the marriage, but can change depending on circumstances. For example, if the paying spouse becomes disabled or retires, payments could stop.

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