All About That Alimony

how-alimony-works

Alimony Basics

“Alimony: when two people make a mistake and one of them keeps paying for it.” – Peggy Joyce

If you’ve never been through a divorce or close with someone who has, you probably don’t know much about alimony, aside from what you see in the movies. To put it simply, alimony (also called spousal support or maintenance) is financial support requested from the spouse in the marriage that needs it. But there’s a catch: the spouse asking for the alimony must prove in court that the other spouse has the ability to provide such support.

It’s also important to know that alimony is increasingly becoming rarer and rarer, so do not expect it as a given.  It depends on many factors, and the law differ by state.

Who gets alimony?

Either spouse can be awarded alimony. The court needs to see proof as to who needs the spousal support, based on the financial situation in your marriage. If you worked and your spouse stayed home with the kids, your spouse may ask you for it. If you worked part-time and your spouse worked full time, you may be granted alimony until you find a full time position.

How do I get it?

If you think you’ll require spousal support, first try to come to an agreement with your Ex.  If you do, ask the judge to include your written agreement in the court order.

For those who can’t agree outside of the courtroom, it will be up to the judge to decide. The judge will evaluate your finances and make the decision based on many factors.  These include your ability to support yourself, age, employment history, and length of marriage.

Will I get alimony forever?

Although it can be, alimony is not always permanent. You and your Ex can decide on an acceptable amount of time in your agreement. If not, the judge will make this decision for you as well. The judge will decide this by evaluating your work experience. You’ll get a limited time to obtain more work experience or get training you’ll need to become financially independent.

Your Ex can petition to terminate your alimony agreement if he has a change in his financial situation.  He can also do so if you re-marry, get a big promotion or inheritance, or have another significant increase in income or wealth.

What if my Ex won’t pay?

If your former spouse won’t fork over the cash, you’ll need to go back to court. Just what you wanted, right? The court can enforce your order by filing a motion for contempt. This is why you want your alimony agreement to be part of your official divorce proceedings and not just a verbal agreement with your Ex.  You’ll have sound legal standing to get the order enforced.

How much will I get?

As much as I’d like to tell you “ONE MILLION DOLLARS,” the amount you’ll actually receive is dependent on your situation. The judge will look at what both of your reasonable expenses are and make a decision based on those factors.  These may include rent or mortgage payments, monthly utilities, basics like food and clothing, and car payments. The ultimate goal will be to maintain a somewhat similar lifestyle to what you had during your marriage. When that’s not possible (more often than not), most judges will look for an equitable solution for both parties.

Alimony circumstances can differ widely.  As with all legal matters, it’s best to get sound legal advice and work with an attorney.