8 Questions Everyone Asks About Alimony
One of the biggest concerns people have when they’re facing a divorce is how their standard of living will change – and whether they’ll need to pay or will receive spousal support.
Below is a list of the most frequently asked questions about alimony and our answers. Of course, each couple’s case is unique and your particular circumstances will determine the exact path your process will take. That’s where the divorce attorney you ultimately choose to represent you can get more specific.
1. “HOW DO I GET ALIMONY AFTER MY DIVORCE?”
You can request it as part of your divorce proceeding. If you and your spouse agree on an alimony payment, you can ask the judge to make it part of the court order. If not, the judge will decide whether you’re entitled to receive alimony. Each state has laws about what qualifies you for alimony. Tip: You can’t request alimony after your case is over, so talk with your attorney about your best way forward.
2. “CAN I GET MY ALIMONY JUDGMENT CHANGED AFTER THE DIVORCE?”
If there’s been a change in your individual circumstances, the court may order a change. For example, the judge may modify an award if the spouse paying alimony experienced a situation that impacts his or her ability to pay. If you’re receiving alimony payments and there’s been a change in your needs, that could also warrant a modification.
3. “HOW LONG CAN I RECEIVE ALIMONY?”
If you and your spouse can agree on the length of your alimony agreement, the judge will include that in your court order. If you can’t, the judge will decide what’s best for your individual situation. For example, limited duration alimony will last for a certain amount of time, for example, to give the receiving spouse a chance to get training to earn a job to support himself or herself. Absent extenuating circumstances, limited duration alimony cannot last any longer than the total years of your marriage. It’s common in many settlement agreements for alimony to last about half of the total duration of your marriage, but again, that length is subject to negotiation. There’s also permanent alimony, called open durational alimony, which can last until either spouse dies or the court deems alimony is no longer appropriate in your case. Although it varies by state, in order to qualify for open durational alimony, there may be a requirement to have been married for an extended period. For example, in New Jersey you need to have been married for 20 years or longer.
4. “WHAT IF MY EX WANTS ME TO PAY ALIMONY – AND I DON’T THINK THEY NEED MY FINANCIAL SUPPORT?”
When you and your ex can’t agree on alimony, the judge will decide whether an alimony award should be made, for how much, and for how long a duration.
5. “I’M A GUY. CAN I ASK MY EX FOR ALIMONY?”
Yes. Gender is irrelevant when requesting alimony.
6. “CAN WE SETTLE AN ALIMONY PAYMENT OUTSIDE OF COURT?”
Absolutely! You can agree to any alimony arrangement that the two of you believe to be fair and reasonable. However, you must include that agreement in your divorce order from the court, or risk your ex stopping payments whenever he or she wants.
7. “WHAT IF MY EX IS BEHIND IN THEIR COURT-ORDERED ALIMONY PAYMENTS?”
You can file a motion to enforce the order and even to have support paid through wage garnishment. Consult with your attorney about the best way to proceed.
8. “HOW ARE ALIMONY PAYMENTS CALCULATED?”
This is different from child support, where there are clear guidelines for determining the payment. There’s no alimony calculator. Each state has different laws governing spousal support.
Factors may include:
- the requesting spouse’s actual needs and the other’s ability to pay
- the length of the marriage
- each person’s age and physical and emotional health
- each person’s income, earning capacity, education, and ability to be employed
- the standard of living during the marriage
- parenting responsibilities
- how much time and money it would take for the dependent spouse to support themselves
- each party’s financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage.
Have additional questions about Alimony? Consulting with an attorney in your state about your divorce agreement, including alimony and child support.