Who Gets Alimony in a Divorce?

Who gets alimony in a divorce?  The answer to this question is no longer simple.  At one time, when most women were stay at homes wives and the husband sole breadwinner, the husband had to pay alimony to his ex-wife.  Today the situation is no longer clear-cut.

What is the purpose of Alimony?

Alimony or Maintenance is a method of putting divorcing couples on an equal footing financially and is usually part of an overall property settlement.  There are four types of alimony:

  • Rehabilitative Alimony – is short-term alimony, it may last only a few months or years.  It is given in instances where one spouse may have been out of the workforce for a significant period and needs support while updating work skills, training, or finding a job.
  • Permanent Alimony – is given in situations where the parties have been married a specific length of time, usually a minimum of 10 years.  The length of time parties have to be married to trigger eligibility for permanent alimony varies from state to state. This type of alimony is paid until the spouse receiving it remarries, the receiving spouse dies, or the payer spouse dies.  
  • Temporary alimony – is often awarded when parties separate prior to the divorce
  • Reimbursement Alimony – is awarded to reimburse a spouse for expenses paid during the marriage, like education.

How is Alimony Determined?

There are several factors the court considers when determining which spouse is eligible for alimony:

  • Future earning potential
  • Whether both spouses have worked outside the home during the marriage and their income
  • Age and health of children (a spouse that can work because of caring for a disabled child will be awarded alimony)
  • Age of the parties, length of time parties may have been out of workforce

Because of two wage earner marriages and the fact that some women can and do make more income than their husband, men today can receive alimony. In general, women are still more likely to receive alimony then men because men generally still earn more than women do. You can affect the length and duration of alimony through a property settlement agreement outside of a court proceeding.

Do You Need a lawyer?

Factors relating to receiving alimony are complicated.  Good legal representation can have a long lasting effect on your economic future after a marriage has been dissolved.

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