How Long Must You Be Married Before You Must Pay Alimony?

Alimony, or spousal support, is a contentious topic in many divorces. One spouse believes they are entitled to reasonable support payments from their former spouse as they attempt to build a life after divorce. The other spouse typically does not want to take a cut in their income for someone they no longer feel responsible to support.

Is there a magic line in the sand that determines whether your former spouse deserves or will, according to the courts, receive alimony? Not really. There are, however, several provisions to keep in mind if you find yourself considering how spousal support could impact your finances after a divorce.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term Alimony

When it comes to alimony, some couples will end up dealing with long-term or permanent alimony, while others will see only short-term alimony as part of their finances. Short-term alimony is typically paid as a measure to help one spouse develop the skills or get the job they need to support themselves and help care for any children who were part of the marriage. This includes going back to school or seeking key certifications. Long-term alimony, however, is typically issued only when a couple has been married for a long time, generally when one spouse has sacrificed their career to take care of the home or children. Long-term alimony is generally issued only when the couple has been married for ten years or more.

Even long-term or permanent alimony has its limits. Most of the time, the judge or your divorce contract will set a point at which alimony will end. This may include the spouse receiving support remarrying, getting a new job, or reaching a certain point in life as well as other triggers. Spousal support typically ends at the death of either party, though if the surviving spouse was the one receiving alimony, a life insurance policy can help provide needed support after that death. You may also modify your spousal support arrangement if you change jobs or have other unexpected life events that change your ability to pay the former support amount.

What Factors do the Courts Consider?

In some cases, you and your former spouse may reach an agreement about spousal support yourselves. In others, however, the courts will determine alimony for you. In order to determine alimony, the courts will consider a number of key factors.

Which spouse makes more? Does one spouse’s income substantially outdo the other’s? In this case, the courts may award more support to the spouse with the lower income.

Did your spouse leave their job to help raise children or take care of the home? A spouse who left their former profession to take care of children or family may need time to seek training or other help when looking for a new job. As a result, that spouse may need financial support until they are able to take up a career of their own.

Is your spouse able to work? If, for example, your spouse can move quickly into a new position, or is able to pick up a new job easily based on their skills and experience, they may receive less support than if they are for some reason unable to work. A spouse who chooses not to work, on the other hand, may not receive substantial support.

If you’re struggling to understand alimony, what your spouse deserves or what you will be required to pay, or how to handle other elements of your divorce, you aren’t alone. Contact us today to work with a team of lawyers dedicated to helping you achieve the best possible outcome in your divorce.