When it comes to marriage and divorce, understanding all of the stipulations that can arise during a divorce agreement is important. You may be making arrangements for custody of children, custody of pets, how to split up finances and property, but you should also be considering alimony.

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What is alimony?

Alimony, otherwise known as spouse support, is a payment arrangement made for a spouse to pay the other spouse an amount of money periodically, over a certain length of time. The idea of alimony is not that you are splitting up your income to pay to a former spouse, but instead that the paying spouse is helping the other spouse to live in a way that they are accustomed to. 

Think of it this way: If you suddenly lost your job, it would be difficult to continue living in the same way you have. It can be hard to pay bills, support children, or even to support yourself. Having income suddenly taken away can be difficult, especially if you have children, are disabled, or are unable to work for yourself. This is why we have social security nets like unemployment for those who lose their job, and alimony arrangements for those who are deserving and divorcing.

Who gets alimony?

Contrary to popular belief, it is not always a husband that needs to pay alimony to his wife when they part ways during a divorce. An ex-husband can also be on the receiving end of alimony. Alimony is awarded when there is a big gap in earnings between spouses, and spouses have been married for a long time. If a wife is a lawyer making six digit yearly income, and the husband works a minimum wage job, then a judge would likely award alimony to the husband during separation. Still, there are many things to consider when it comes to an alimony award — just because someone makes less than someone else does not mean they will receive alimony. Judges base their determination on future earning potential, so the spouse who needs to care for three young children will likely receive alimony, given their need to spend time child rearing over time at work.

How is alimony determined?

A judge will assess a few things when awarding alimony. The earning income of both parties will be assessed, and the judge will determine if the spouse has the financial ability to pay alimony. The potentially receiving spouse will have to have a demonstrated need for alimony. There is no default for alimony in a divorce case. 

When does alimony end?

Alimony can be a temporary or permanent arrangement, depending on what the judge decides. Alimony can be periodic (such as a monthly payment) or occur in a one-time lump sum, such as “giving” a spouse a house or property. Alimony arrangements generally end if the receiving spouse gets remarried, cohabitates, dies, or a significant life changing event occurs such as winning the lottery or being hired to a high paying job.
Alimony is not wholly cut-and-dry. If you have questions regarding divorce, child support, alimony, and more, contact us today. Bernstein & Mello, PLLC would be happy to assist you with your divorce questions.