Divorce will I get alimony?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “My spouse has been cheating on me for the last 10 years. I know I should have left years ago, but I had three small children and no employment. My last child just left for college, and I have gone back to school to get my law degree. I am ready to get a divorce and start my life fresh, potentially with someone who is serious about marriage. It will be a few more years until I am out of school and able to get a job. I am wondering if alimony is guaranteed? I sacrificed for years and stayed home with the kids.” 

Alimony overview

Alimony, or spousal support as it is more commonly called, is the amount money provided from one spouse to another following divorce. Although not guaranteed, in many cases alimony is provided to ensure that one spouse, often a non-wage earning spouse, can maintain their standard of living for a specific time following  divorce. Alimony can be especially critical for a spouse if they spent years at home caring for children and do not have the necessary skills to immediately reenter the workforce.

When is alimony given?

Unlike child support, which is generally a given in divorce, courts have broad discretion to determine whether alimony should be awarded, and if so, what amounts should be given. Every state, however, has laws which outline what factors should be considered prior to awarding alimony. Factors include the following:

  • How much money each spouse can earn each month?
  • What type of expenses does each spouse have?
  • What was the standard of living prior to the divorce?
  • What is the age, physical condition, emotional state and financial status of the each spouse?
  • How long will it take for the supported spouse to get an education or training for employment?
  • What was the length of the marriage?
  • How long was the supported spouse absent from the job market?
  • What responsibilities does each spouse have for the children?
  • What contribution did each spouse make to the marriage?
  • How was the property distributed?
  • What income is available from investments?
  • What are the tax implications?
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant.

How long will I receive alimony?

Women wanted equality and they just might be getting it when it comes to alimony. While courts historically allowed for high alimony payments to wives of high income earning husbands, now that many women have entered the workforce , courts have started to view women as independent and capable of making their own money.

What does this mean for you? Alimony, if awarded, will not last forever. It sounds like you are on the right track, but it’s important that you continue to take steps to become self-supporting. While parents have to pay child support until their children reach the age of majority, alimony will generally only last until you are self-supporting (or should be) or you remarry.

What if my spouse refuses to pay alimony?

Failure to pay child support can result in wage garnishment, loss of licenses, liens, assets repossession or bank account levies. If your spouse fails to make alimony payments, however, a governmental department will not get involved. In fact, to have the court order enforced you might have to return to court and file a contempt of court proceeding. If you win your case there are legal means to enforce the court order.

Preparing to fight for alimony 

So, what should you do first? Talk to a divorce lawyer. The court will need to information which proves that you have a financial need and your spouse can pay. To prove this you will need to gather all of your financial information, including information about your monthly expenses and your income.

You will also need information about your spouse’s income. If your spouse is not forthcoming or you have any reason to suspect he is hiding information, you may need an expert to help investigate.

Next, consider all the other factors the court will review. For example, if you have issues with your health gather medical information, especially if you have a condition which is so severe you cannot return to work.

Bottom line:

If you have been married for more that 10 years and you have been at home rearing the children, it’s likely you will be awarded alimony. Spousal support is generally not permanent. For this reason, you will need to continue to seek employment.

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