The decision to get a divorce is a done deal, but now you may be going into panic mode because you have relied on your husband or wife for financial support. You may not be able to pay for everyday costs on your own, or you need some time to get back on your feet, and are wondering how you are going to live? Do not go into panic mode just yet, you may qualify for alimony. Alimony is an extremely important part of divorce but is often overlooked by parties until it is too late.
When couples go through a divorce, a disadvantaged spouse may remain financially unprotected and alimony works as a safety net for the suffering spouse. Alimony, also known as spousal support, is typically a monthly payment made by one spouse to the other after a divorce. In general, courts may order alimony in instances where one party is much more financially stable than the other, and the other party needs assistance in beginning life following the divorce, i.e. when a stay-at-home parent needs a source of income after the divorce but has never held a job.
Courts have broad discretion in determining whether to award alimony, and if so, how much and for how long. Although there are several factors that the court considers in determining whether one qualifies for alimony, it will often depend primarily on if there is a financial need for alimony, and if the other spouse has an ability to pay that alimony. Alimony is issued on a case-by-case basis, and each case will be different in terms of the analysis.
Who Qualifies for Alimony?
Not every former spouse receives alimony, and you may be asking what are the requirements for receiving alimony? That answer will depend on your case. In most cases, the longer you and your spouse were married, the more likely you may receive alimony. If you were only married for one (1) year before divorce, your chances of being awarded alimony are not as likely as they are if you were married for twenty (20) or more years.
The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, on which many states’ alimony statutes are based, recommends that courts consider the following factors in making decisions about alimony awards:
- The age, physical condition, emotional state, and financial condition of the former spouses;
- The length of time the recipient would need for education or training to become self-sufficient;
- The couple’s standard of living during the marriage;
- The length of the marriage; and
- The ability of the payer spouse to support the recipient and still support himself or herself.
What Information Will I Need to Show the Court to get Alimony?
The exact information courts require to determine whether one is entitled to alimony depends on what factors the court in that state considers. Typically, though, courts want to know financial information; health and age; education and employment; length of marriage; and behavior. That list is not exhaustive, and different states may consider other factors or weigh the factors different in determining one’s eligibility for alimony. The laws of each state should be consulted when determining the factors that the court will consider in deciding whether alimony will be awarded, and how each factor may weigh in one spouse’s favor.
- Financially, you will need to show the court your expenses and income. This includes bills to show the court your living expenses. Things such as groceries and personal care expenses will also need to be factored in. You should also provide the court with as much information about your spouse’s finances as possible. If your spouse has excess income while you have a monthly deficit, you are more likely to be awarded spousal support.
- Health and Age. If you have a medical condition that affects your ability to work or requires significant medical treatment, you may be entitled to spousal support. In many instances, the court will award spousal support only for a limited time, depending on your circumstances. However, if you have an ongoing medical condition that prevents employment or are of an age when it is unreasonable to expect you to return to work, the court may award you permanent spousal support. The court may also consider whether you or your spouse are near retirement age and how retirement will affect your financial needs and resources.
- Education. If there is disparity in you and your spouse’s level of education, the court may consider that in awarding spousal support. For example, if your spouse has a professional degree that enables him or her to earn a larger income while you do not have such a degree or future earning power, a court may order that your spouse pay you support. Also, if you have been unemployed as a stay-at-home spouse or under-employed because you have served as the parent who primarily handles child rearing duties, the court may award you alimony. The award may be limited to what the court believes necessary to allow you to re-enter the workforce full-time or increase your level of education or experience.
- Length of Marriage. Most states consider the length of the marriage in determining both the duration and amount of spousal support. Courts generally look to whether the marriage was short- or long-term. While courts generally do not award lifetime spousal support, for a long-term marriage, the lesser earning spouse may be awarded spousal support for a longer period of time. If your marriage is long-term and your spouse’s ability to meet his or her financial needs is greater than yours, you may be entitled to spousal support, and depending on your ability to meet your needs in the future, you may be entitled to long-term support.
- Bad Behavior. In most states, a spouse’s bad behavior in the form of an affair does not affect alimony. If a spouse’s abusive behavior, however, has prevented the requesting spouse from obtaining necessary education or employment, that behavior might affect an award of spousal support because it affected the earning power of the requesting spouse. Because alimony is generally based on need and ability to pay, if your spouse’s bad behavior has put you in greater need for assistance, you are more likely to be awarded alimony.
Temporary vs. Permanent Alimony
Alimony can be temporary or permanent, depending on the case. Temporary alimony is provided when the spouse receives aid for a certain amount of time. In many cases, this type of alimony is provided so the spouse can get back on their feet by getting back on the job market, relocating, or other costs.
Permanent alimony means that the payments will be paid until death or until the spouse remarries. This type of alimony usually applies in long term marriages, or where a spouse may never become self-supporting due to age or a disability.
Do You Need to Hire a Lawyer for Alimony Issues?
Judges and state laws can be unpredictable, so do not assume alimony is coming your way in the event of a divorce. Alimony laws vary from state to state, so it is important to be aware that many judges today are awarding alimony on a decreasing basis and for shorter durations. It is still worth it to explore the possibility of receiving alimony after a divorce, especially if you have been married to your spouse for many years and there is a considerable income disparity between you and your spouse.
Filing for alimony can require proof in the form of many documents, statements, or other items. The qualified attorneys at Breeding Henry Baysan PC can help with alimony issues by reviewing the terms of alimony orders to ensure that everyone’s needs are covered and can assist you by working to get the best possible outcome. Please contact us at https://www.breedinglaw.com/Family-Law/Divorce.shtml to set up a time to discuss your case and make a plan for your future.