Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a part of many divorce and separation cases. There are various instances where one spouse may be required to pay support to the other, or perhaps where they choose to do so, as outlined in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Of course, it’s completely up to the courts as to how much alimony is paid. Therefore, the best thing that you can do is to learn what factors impact that determination so that you know what to expect.
There are several factors used to calculate how much spousal maintenance is allowed. Each state and even each county may have its own considerations that come into play here, but there are some general areas that everyone looks at to help get an idea of how to proceed with spousal support payments. Here’s what you need to know.
Mental and Physical Condition of Both Parties
The court will take into consideration the mental and physical health of each spouse, as well as their age. When one spouse is older or suffers from more health problems, the likelihood of getting alimony (and the amount paid) will increase significantly.
If one spouse has debilitating health conditions, including mental health disorders, the judge may decide that the other spouse should have to provide maintenance to assist them in paying for their healthcare and other needs. It may also be deemed that alimony is required to make up for the loss of income because they can’t work due to their illness or disability.
Length of Time Married
The length of time that two people are married will impact the amount and duration of their spousal maintenance payments. In shorter-term marriages, the alimony amounts will typically be much lower than in long-term marriages. For example, someone who is divorcing after 20 years will get more than someone who gets divorced just five years after getting married.
Standard of Living
When the courts are trying to determine alimony, they will look at the standard of living of both parties. That is, what type of lifestyle did the couple have? The court will review their financial assets, homes and vehicles, and other possessions. The couple’s vacation habits will also be considered here. In long-term marriages especially, the judge wants to award alimony so that both parties can maintain the standard of living that they were used to during the marriage.
If one party is significantly wealthier than the other at the time of the marriage, they may be required to pay alimony to keep their spouse comfortable based on the lifestyle that they’ve created and shared.
Financial Resources and Support
Spousal support payments are also usually affected by the need for financial support by one of the parties, as well as the other spouse’s ability to take care of those needs. A full review of assets and financial resources will take place and then the judge will determine, based on that information whether alimony should be awarded and at what amount it should be paid.
Business assets may be included here, along with any assets compiled during the marriage or any income earned from assets that one partner held before the marriage. Essentially, if there is a disparity in financial means, one spouse may be required to pay alimony to support the other for a period of time.
Behaviors and Causes Leading to Divorce
Courts factor in so many different elements to determine alimony payments. The situation and circumstances in each divorce case will be considered, along with their impact on and implications towards the divorce. Adultery, potential abuse or neglect, domestic violence, lying or hiding financial assets during the marriage—these are just a few of the behaviors and factors of the relationship that come into play when a judge is trying to figure out what spousal support payments should be.
That doesn’t mean that if your spouse cheats, you’re going to get alimony for that reason alone. However, when combined with the other factors listed here (and those that aren’t), the courts can have a whole picture of the situation that helps them determine what is fair for all involved.
Is Alimony Forever?
Many people who are getting spousal support for the first time also want to better understand how the payments work and how long they will be made. That depends on each case and judges will rule individually based on the circumstances involved. The length of time of alimony payments is dependent on:
- The length of the marriage
- The income disparity between the spouses
- Factors like disability or serious health conditions
- An inability of one spouse to work or earn money to maintain a standard of living
Typically, you can anticipate getting alimony for about 60-70% of the time that you were married. So, if you were married for 10 years, you’ll probably get alimony (or pay it, depending on your role) for about six or seven years. However, this is just a starting point for the family court judges, so it may change considerably once all of the factors have been considered.
It’s very rare that alimony payments go on for the rest of someone’s natural life. The exception, of course, is if there are circumstances that warrant such a long spousal support payment period.
Talk to Your Lawyer for the Best Outcome
As mentioned, the variables involved in determining spousal support payments can vary drastically from one case to the next. Therefore, the best thing that you can do is talk to your lawyer about your divorce and what kind of situation you’re facing. They will be able to help you through the process, as well as to provide you with a better idea of what you can anticipate when it comes to your alimony case.
Whether you’re the one receiving the payments or making them, it’s important to have someone on your side who knows the law and can help you navigate things to get a fair outcome. Contact the Modern Law team today to learn more.