What Factors Are Involved? | How the Court Determines the Amount
Though it’s less common than it was generations ago, alimony (also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance) can still be ordered by a court as part of the divorce process. The rules vary from state to state, but there are general principles that tend to apply in jurisdictions nationwide.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony is a court-ordered payment from one party in a divorce to the other party. Though alimony may be paid in a lump sum, it is far more common for the court to order periodic payments—weekly, biweekly, or monthly spousal support payments are typical. There’s also a common misperception that only men pay alimony to their ex-wives. The courts in all states have the discretion to order either party to pay spousal maintenance to the other spouse, based on the circumstances. For example, where a wife has a high-paying job and the husband gives up a career to stay home with children, the husband may warrant alimony in a divorce.
What Factors Does a Court Consider When Determining Whether to Grant Alimony?
Factors typically part of an alimony determination include:
- The length of time the parties have been married—Some states allow spousal support only if the parties have been married a minimum number of years (10 years is common).
- The standard of living to which the parties were accustomed during their marriage
- The ability of the recipient to maintain their standard of living without spousal support
- The extent to which the recipient gave up a career or opportunities for self-advancement to stay home with children or perform domestic duties
- The age and health of the parties
- The financial needs of both parties
- The earning capacity of both parties
- The contributions of the recipient to the education, training, or career of the payor
What Different Types of Alimony Are Available?
As a general rule, courts can order permanent or temporary alimony. A permanent grant of alimony can last for the life of the recipient but is usually terminated by certain circumstances, such as the remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient with another intimate partner.
Temporary alimony can take different forms:
- It may be rehabilitative, in place until the recipient demonstrates an ability to be self-sufficient. In such instances, the support is typically paid until the payor files a motion to terminate.
- It may be for a specific period of time, such as a year or five years, automatically terminating unless the recipient files a new request for support.
How Does the Court Determine the Amount of Spousal Support?
Courts have a significant degree of discretion when calculating spousal support, looking at all the factors listed above. In addition, many states follow the prescriptions of the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, which lists many of the same factors.