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What is Alimony?

Alimony is the Payment made to a separated or divorced spouse as required by a Divorce Decree or Separation Agreement.

Where a divorce or dissolution of marriage (civil union) is granted, either party may ask for Post-Marital Alimony. It is not an absolute right, but may be granted, the amount and terms varying with the circumstances. If one party is already receiving support at the time of the divorce, the previous order is not automatically continued (although this can be requested), as the arguments for support during and after the marriage can be different.

Factors Affecting Alimony

Length of the Marriage

Generally alimony lasts for a term or period that will be longer if the marriage lasted longer. A marriage of over 10 years is often a candidate for permanent alimony.

Time Separated while still married

In some U.S. states, separation is a triggering event, recognized as the end of the term of the marriage. Other U.S. states (such as New Jersey) do not recognize separation or legal separation. In a state not recognizing separation, a 2-year marriage followed by an 8-year separation will generally be treated like a 10-year marriage.

Age of the parties at the time of the Divorce

Generally more youthful spouses are considered to be more able to ‘get on’ with their lives, and therefore thought to require shorter periods of support.

Relative Income of the parties

In U.S. states that recognize a ‘right’ of the spouses to live ‘according to the means they have become accustomed’, alimony attempts to adjust the incomes of the spouses so that they are able to approximate, as best possible, their prior lifestyle. This tends to strongly equalize post-divorce income, heavily penalizing the higher-earning spouse.

Future Financial Prospects of the parties

A spouse who is going to realize significant income in the future is likely to have to pay higher alimony than one who is not.

Health of the parties

Poor health goes towards need, and potentially an inability to support for oneself. The courts do not want to leave one party indigent.

Fault in Marital Breakdown

In U.S. states where fault is recognized, fault can significantly affect alimony, increasing, reducing or even nullifying it. Many U.S. states are ‘no-fault’ states, where one does not have to show fault to get divorced. No-fault divorce spares the spouses the acrimony of the ‘fault’ processes, and closes the eyes of the court to any and all improper spousal behavior.

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