Two people divorcing can often come to agreeable terms on child support or division of property sooner than they can agree on alimony payments. Typically, bitterness prevails at having to pay money to a former spouse.
While it is hard to defend a position where one spouse lives better than the other after a marriage, some couples manage to see the fairness when future goals are included in the final decision. Addressing emotional issues and understanding how alimony is determined may couples meet their needs during the mediation process.
Factors That Determine Whether Alimony is Appropriate in a Divorce
The judge during your divorce proceeding will look at several factors to determine whether you have to pay alimony to your soon-to-be ex-spouse. The final decision is usually based on the following:
• The need of your spouse to receive alimony and your ability to pay
• How long the two of you were married
• Standard of living during the marriage and whether both of you can maintain that standard at a reasonable level
• Earning capacity, education level, employability and vocational skills that you and your spouse possess
• Parental responsibilities
• Physical and emotional health of you and your spouse
• Both of your ages
• How long your spouse has been out of the job market
• Any financial or nonfinancial contributions you both made to the marriage. This includes putting personal careers or educational opportunities on hold.
• Equitable distribution of property and payouts, either directly or indirectly, that is considered reasonable, just and fair
• Length of time it may take for your spouse to receive sufficient education and/or training to find appropriate employment and acquire assets and income
• Investment income for you or your spouse
• Other factors the judge might deem relevant to making a decision
Standard of Living Determination
A key term for the court to measure whether alimony is appropriate in your divorce is “the standard of living of the marriage.” This law determines if your spouse is entitled to receive alimony and if so, how much you will have to pay.
Generally, this follows the basic principle behind providing financial maintenance to your spouse after a divorce that even though the marriage ends, both of you should continue living as you were during the marriage.
If you were the sole breadwinner, it is very likely that you will have to share your income with your spouse. If you do not do this once the divorce is granted, your standard of living would rise considerably. At the same time, your spouse’s standard of living would drop.
For some, this could mean having a big house, expensive cars and going on lavish vacations. For others, it could mean a more practical lifestyle of living in a modest house and driving the average car. Vacations would not be extravagant. Because it can be different for every family, the amount of money you spent while married is what will define what occurs.
What to Expect if Alimony is Awarded in Your Divorce
If you are going through a divorce, alimony payments, also known as maintenance or spousal support, are a steadfast part of the American divorce system. Further, if your earnings are substantially more than your spouse and the two of you have been married for several years, it is a strong possibility that you will be ordered to pay alimony.
However, alimony is not usually awarded if your marriage lasted for a short period of time or if both of you earn similar salaries.
If alimony is awarded in your divorce, you will have to pay a specific amount each month. This does not change unless:
• The judge sets an end date
• Your spouse remarries
• Your children no longer need a parent at home full-time
• Death of you or your spouse
If at all possible, you and your spouse should agree to the amount and length of time for alimony payments. With court involvement, it is possible that you will pay more in time and money.