In many divorce cases, one of the parties is ordered by the court to pay his or her ex-spouse a certain amount of money each month. Sometimes, the divorcing couple agrees on an amount without the court’s influence. In both cases, the payment is known as alimony.
The purpose of alimony, or spousal support, is to help mitigate any financial consequences suffered by one of the parties to a divorce. For example, many married women stay home and take care of their children instead of working full-time. Following a divorce, they often have limited options for earning an income. Spousal support provides an income and reduces the financial strain placed upon them.
If you’re thinking about getting a divorce, it’s important to consider how alimony will affect you – either as the payor or payee. We’ll cover the main issues in detail below.
How Long Does Spousal Support Last?
There’s no standard that dictates how long alimony must be paid. Judges are given a wide berth to decide on its duration based on the circumstances of each case. The length of time a couple was married is taken into account. The judge will also consider whether the couple’s children need a parent at home. Also important is whether the disadvantaged spouse is able to find a job that provides a livable income.
For example, consider a couple that has been married for decades during which the wife never worked. The judge may order the husband to pay support until his ex-wife dies or remarries.
Now consider a couple that was married for a year where both parties held full-time jobs. The judge is unlikely to award spousal support in such a case.
The most important point to remember is that the duration of alimony payments is based on the circumstances of the case, and made with the judge’s discretion. This assumes the couple is unable to agree, and thus need a judge to intervene.
How The Amount Of Alimony Is Calculated
The amount of the payments is determined after considering several factors. The standard of living enjoyed by the couple while they were married plays a role. So too does the payor’s ability to pay. (A person who makes $300,000 a year will likely be ordered to pay more than a person who makes $30,000 a year.)
The length of time the spouses were married is also taken into consideration. Given an ability to pay, the amount of support awarded a spouse will be greater in the case of a decades-long marriage than one that lasted 12 months.
The payee’s earning capacity is also important. If the individual is unable to earn a livable income, the judge may order the other payor spouse to make larger payments.
Finally, the age and health of both parties is taken into account. An older person saddled with serious medical conditions may be awarded more alimony than a young, healthy person.
When You’re The One To Pay Alimony
Alimony doesn’t reflect poorly on the party ordered to make payments. That person may have done nothing wrong to “deserve being punished” with the order. As noted earlier, the intent of spousal support is to ease the financial consequences of getting divorced.
If you are ordered to pay support to your ex-spouse, realize that certain circumstances may warrant revisiting the order in the future. For example, if you lose your job and are left without an income, a judge may lower the amount of the payments or put them on hold until you find employment. Also, if your ex-spouse remarries, you can ask the judge to dismiss the alimony order, effectively ending the payments.
When You’re The One To Receive Alimony
If the judge awards alimony to you, it is important to understand that the payments are likely to end at some point. Rarely do judges award spousal support indefinitely. In addition, as explained above, the amount of money you receive each month may change due to a variety of circumstances.
It’s a good idea to look for ways to increase your future earning capacity. Obtain additional training or education, become certified in your chosen field, or improve your current skillset.
The issues that influence the amount of spousal support paid, how long it is paid, and by whom, are often complex. If you have questions, consult an experienced divorce attorney who can help to ensure the payments you make or receive are fair.