Is There a Minimum Requirement to Get Spousal Support?
Though the frequency with which courts grant alimony has gone down over the past few decades, all 50 states still allow a judge to grant some type of spousal support under certain circumstances. In fact, only seven states—Florida, Oregon, Connecticut, New Jersey, Vermont, West Virginia, and North Carolina—still allow for the permanent payment of alimony (typically for the life of the payor or recipient, or until the beneficiary remarries or cohabitates with another person). Instead, courts in most states will grant temporary alimony (for a specific period of time) or rehabilitative alimony (until the recipient has the ability to be self-sufficient).
Virtually every state conditions the availability of alimony on a number of factors, including:
- The age and health of the parties
- The financial needs of the recipient as compared to the resources of the payor
- The lifestyle to which the parties were accustomed during the marriage
- The respective earning capacities of the parties
- The extent to which one party gave up a career to maintain the home
The Length of a Marriage
The duration of the marriage typically factors into the determination of a spousal support order. In some states, no minimum marriage length is required in order for a party to be eligible for alimony; however, courts typically award less alimony in cases of shorter marriages. Other states require a certain minimum marriage length before a party is eligible for an alimony award. The eligibility requirements in those states can vary greatly:
- Texas courts typically don’t grant spousal support unless the parties have been married at least 10 years. In addition, the person receiving spousal support must demonstrate an inability to earn enough to meet their needs.
- In California, if the couple has been married less than 10 years, the person receiving alimony is eligible only for payments for a period equal to one-half of the length of the marriage.
- In New York, if you have been married for 15 years or less, you may be eligible for alimony for a period of approximately five years, with the specific length based on the duration of your marriage. If you have been married more than 15 years, but fewer than 20, you can collect alimony for five to eight years, based on the duration. If your marriage has lasted over 20 years, you may be able to get alimony for as long as 10 years, at the discretion of the court.
- In Florida (one of the states that still allows permanent alimony awards), the duration of your marriage plays an important part in your eligibility for spousal support. If your marriage has lasted less than four years, it’s highly unlikely you’ll get any alimony. At the other end of the spectrum, if you have been married more than 17 years, it’s almost a certainty that you’ll qualify for spousal support. The likelihood of a grant of alimony increases with the length of your marriage.
A Proven Divorce Lawyer Can Protect Your Rights in an Alimony Dispute
The laws vary from state to state with respect to the availability of an award of permanent alimony, as well as how long you must be married to be eligible for spousal support. It’s important that you seek counsel from an experienced attorney in the state where your divorce proceeding has or will be filed.