What Exactly Is Alimony and How Is It Decided?
April 04, 2023
Chances are that you have heard the word alimony come up in a conversation with someone who’s discussing divorce. Today we’ll talk about what alimony is, how it’s decided and who qualifies for it.
Alimony is a court ordered payment from one former spouse to another so that one person isn’t left destitute after a marriage has ended. The concept of alimony dates back hundreds of years, when it was created to ensure that the woman, who had very few opportunities for meaningful employment at the time, didn’t fall into poverty because she no longer had a husband. However, over time, alimony has evolved to be more in line with today’s society, and it is not solely awarded to the woman. Alimony today is also not an automatic part of a divorce like it was in years past. Now, in order to receive alimony, or spousal support as it’s also called, one or both parties will need to formally request it and have it approved by the court. Obviously, the ideal scenario would be to have the alimony agreement already settled by each party when petitioning the court, although since that isn’t always possible, the case can go to trial, where a judge will decide.
Now that we’ve established what alimony is, let’s discuss who qualifies for it and how long it lasts after a divorce. Although there are different laws regarding spousal support depending on which state the divorce is filed in, there are some general guidelines they all share.
Up until the last half century, men were almost always the primary “breadwinners” in a marriage and the woman stayed home to care for the children and manage any duties related to the cleaning and upkeep of the family home. Even now, women tend to be the one’s to give up their career when they start a family, plus they often make less than their male counterparts to begin with, which is why it’s still much more common for the woman to be the one to request and receive alimony. However, as women are slowly gaining more equality in the workforce, there are increasing instances of the male being the person requesting spousal support in a divorce.
Although there are different lengths of time that alimony can be awarded for after a divorce, only in extremely rare cases will the spouse be granted spousal support for a period of time that exceeds the length of the marriage. For example, if the marriage lasted five years, then alimony is generally only paid for a maximum of five years, with the exceptions being if the spouse receiving it is permanently disabled or is caring for a disabled child, or if the spouse is old and/or in very poor health. The most common scenario is that alimony is paid until the person receiving it has enough time to get back on their feet financially, including being able to obtain sufficient training, education or work experience if need be in order for them to become self-supporting.
When the court decides how much alimony should be paid, they will look at several different factors. How long the couple was married is one of the first things they consider. The court will also try to establish the earning capacities of each party, plus how much time they would need to prepare for and find employment if they weren’t working during the marriage. The contributions each person made to the marriage, both financially and by supporting the family by performing any domestic duties related to the home, including caring for children if there are any involved are also analyzed. After all of these various components are evaluated, the court will calculate an alimony figure to award. Although judges in some states are given more discretion when assigning values used to establish how much alimony to award, most states have preset formulas that are used.
As previously mentioned, since there are different laws related to spousal support depending on the state from which the person is filing for divorce from, it’s important to know the laws in your state if and when you petition the court to award you alimony. The best way to do this is by enlisting the help of a qualified attorney in your area. They will be able to guide you through the process and answer any questions you may have.
If you are one of the people who’s fortunate to be going through the divorce process amicably with your spouse, then using an online platform like www.thequickdivorce.com (TQD) is a great option, as it is much cheaper and faster than going the traditional route of hiring attorneys to handle all of the paperwork for you. TQD forms are all customizable to fit your specific needs, and make the divorce a quicker and less stressful process for all involved. TQD is unique in that we also offer attorney assistance if you need any help along the way. TQD’s founding attorney, Aliette H. Carolan, Esq., has specialized exclusively in Marital and Family law in the state of Florida for nearly twenty years.
Deciding that it’s time to end your marriage is often a painful and difficult choice. However, going through the legal process doesn't have to be.