How Alimony is Determined in Divorce


Alimony, also known as spousal support, is financial support paid by one spouse to the other after a divorce. Determining appropriate alimony amounts and duration can be complicated, as many factors are considered when making alimony decisions. This article provides an overview of key considerations in alimony determination.

Factors in Alimony Decision-Making

Courts weigh several factors when deciding on alimony arrangements during divorce proceedings:

Length of Marriage

  • Alimony duration is often correlated with the length of the marriage – generally, longer marriages result in longer alimony payment periods.
  • For marriages under 10 years, alimony may be half the length of the marriage. For marriages over 10 years, alimony could extend indefinitely.

Income Disparity

  • Courts aim to limit any significant drop in standard of living for the lower-earning spouse after divorce.
  • The greater the income disparity between spouses, the more likely the higher earner will pay alimony.

Age and Employability

  • Age and health issues may hamper a spouse’s ability to re-enter the workforce and earn a sufficient living.
  • Courts consider age and employability in determining appropriate alimony.

Living Standards During Marriage

  • Courts examine standard of living established during marriage – the higher the accustomed lifestyle, the more alimony the supported spouse typically receives.

Child Custody Arrangements

  • If one spouse has primary custody, their ability to work full-time may be limited, warranting alimony.

Types of Alimony

There are several different types of alimony arrangements:

Temporary Alimony

  • Short-term support paid during the divorce process and prior to final arrangement.

Rehabilitative Alimony

  • Time-limited alimony paid until the receiving spouse can re-enter the workforce and become self-sufficient.

Permanent Alimony

  • Ongoing alimony paid to the supported spouse until death or remarriage. Typically awarded in long-term marriages where advanced age limits employability.

Lump Sum Alimony

  • One-time payment to the receiving spouse instead of monthly payments.

Calculating Alimony Amounts

While formulas vary by state, some general guidelines on alimony amounts include:

  • 25 – 35% of the paying spouse’s gross income: Typical alimony benchmarks depend on the income of the paying spouse.
  • Sufficient to cover basic needs: Alimony aims to maintain living standards, at least at a basic needs level.
  • Maintain pre-divorce lifestyle relative to income: Beyond basic needs, courts may award higher alimony amounts to enable a comparable lifestyle to that established during marriage.

Alimony determination involves complex legal and financial calculations. Consulting experienced divorce lawyers and financial advisors is highly recommended when making decisions on alimony to protect your rights and best interests. Though the process can be challenging, establishing a thoughtful and fair alimony arrangement is an important part of divorce closure.