Kinds of Alimony and Factors that Affect Spousal Maintenance

Alimony is a method of payment by one party to another, and it can be temporary or permanent. It all depends on the many factors the court will consider to determine how much the spousal maintenance needs to be or whether the person is even entitled to it. The judge will also have to refer to the state laws as a guide.

Either way, alimony can be considered a financial, legal obligation a spouse has to provide to their former partner after divorce. The reasons are multifold.

The former partner, or the one who receives the alimony, can use the money to begin a new life after their marriage breakdown. It guarantees that this individual can still maintain their lifestyle or adjust easily to a new one.

Meanwhile, in some marriages, one spouse might have decided to focus on family life instead of growing their career, allowing the other to maximize their earning potential. The alimony ensures that they wouldn’t end up being left behind penniless after the marriage.

In the past, alimony was traditionally awarded from men to their lower-income wives. In other cases, men were rarely ordered to pay alimony because they typically made more money than women and could therefore be less reliant on spousal support. As of 2016, however, around 3 percent of alimony recipients were men, which is a testament to the changing dynamic of modern marriages.

Types of Alimony

The type of alimony a spouse receives can vary:

1. Permanent or Lifetime Support

Permanent alimony ensures that the receiving spouse will maintain their lifestyle. This type of alimony is typically reserved for long-term marriages where one party cannot be expected to gain financially on their own.

2. Temporary Alimony

Temporary alimony provides financial support in the short term, with plans for a spouse to either go back to work or gain financial independence within a specific period. If the receiving spouse does not gain employment when expected, temporary alimony can be modified by order of the court.

3. Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is support given for a determined amount of time during which the receiving spouse attends school or vocational training to establish themselves in employment. The court predetermined these terms, and once completed, permanent alimony can be awarded if requested.

4. Transitional Alimony

Transitional alimony is a short-term order of support that helps a spouse transition to a different lifestyle than they were still married. Usually, this lasts for five years or less.

5. Compensatory Alimony

Compensatory alimony is support a spouse receives for their contribution toward the marriage. For example, they might have paid for their ex-partner’s education or training.

How to Calculate Alimony

a white envelope with alimony

Each state has specific guidelines for determining alimony, whether it be temporary or permanent. When determining an alimony award, the court considers the following:

• Standard of Living: The court will consider the incomes of both spouses when determining how much alimony should be awarded. The length of time it takes for a spouse to gain employment is also considered. If this is not possible due to health reasons, how long it would take the receiving spouse to receive adequate education to become employable will matter.
• Age: The age of both spouses is considered, as it is more difficult to become employed or gain an education at some points in life than others. For example, it may be easier for a spouse who recently graduated college to find employment, while it would be more challenging for the same person several years later.
• Health: There are many health factors that the court will consider when determining spousal support, including age, mental or physical disability, addiction, and illness.
• Earning Potential: The earning potential of both spouses is also taken into consideration. It is unfair to require a spouse to pay alimony indefinitely when they may become financially independent in the future.

When to Hire a Lawyer for Alimony

There are many reasons to speak with a divorce attorney when filing for or spousal maintenance. For alimony to be granted, you must show the court that there is a need for it and that you’re entitled to receive support.

In addition, if you have been married for 10 years or more before filing for alimony as part of your divorce proceedings, the judge must consider whether either spouse contributed to the other’s earning power. If so, the higher earner will typically have to pay spousal support to the lower earner.

A family law attorney can help you obtain a fair and equitable spousal support award that considers all of your individual circumstances and ensures that you can continue contributing to your support and advancement. They can advise you on how alimony might affect child support if either spouse has children and vice versa. They can also explain how the judge or jury evaluates spousal support, so you can get a better idea of the outcome in your case.


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