Alimony is one of the outcomes of many divorces but many couples do not understand its purpose or how it is determined. Alimony is the regular payment of a predetermined amount of money by one former spouse to another after divorce. It is awarded when one spouse earns more money or provides more financial support during the marriage and it may be temporary or last indefinitely.
To get alimony in divorce, one spouse must prove that he or she earned less than the other did during the marriage and requires financial support in order to establish him or herself. This support may be paid while the lower-earning spouse brushes up on skills required to find a job or returns to school for education necessary to secure gainful employment. Once the recipient spouse becomes financially independent, alimony payments will cease.
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Some spouses will never establish financial independence due to age, a physical condition, or a mental impairment. They may be awarded alimony for an indefinite period, terminating upon their remarriage or death. Alimony time limits vary by situation and the court ordering the payments. They are typically reviewed after a designated period to determine whether they should cease or continue.
Determining Factors of Alimony
Since alimony is based on multiple factors, there is no standard amount awarded during a divorce. Determining factors include the amount of income earned by both spouses, the financial needs of the spouse who earns less or does not have an income, and whether the intended recipient has children to support. An alimony award is usually a predetermined percentage of the monthly earnings of the higher-income spouse.
Alimony has become rarer in recent decades because more spouses are earning an equivalent amount of money. However, there are still stay-at-home parents who require financial support to become self-sufficient after a divorce. In addition, there are marriages in which one spouse works to put the other through school to receive a higher-paying job. A family court judge will consider an alimony request and decide whether this financial payment is necessary.
Similar to property division in divorce, alimony is a way to ensure that a divorce is fair. Otherwise, it would be easy for the spouse who stayed at home to raise the children or take care of the household to be left without any financial support following a divorce. Talking to a family law attorney can help a low or no wage-earning spouse receive money needed to become self-supporting in the future.