Filing for divorce soon? Learn what determines if a spouse gets alimony

Suppose you are getting divorced and plan to apply for alimony or believe your spouse may ask for it. In that case, you should know what alimony is, what factors determine whether you or your husband receives it, how courts assess it, and when you can amend or stop paying payments.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is money paid by one ex-spouse to the other following a divorce. Alimony is not always ordered nor always paid. The operation of alimony and how judges determine when, how much, and how long to give spousal support are governed by state alimony statutes. Most states have gender-neutral divorce laws, and women are also ordered to pay alimony to their former husbands.

In addition, alimony is available in same-sex divorces, just as in husband-and-wife divorces. Alimony is not a way to make a divorced couple's financial situation equal. Instead, it is typically intended to ensure that both spouses' financial needs are met.

What Determines If A Spouse Gets Alimony?

You do not always have to be married to qualify for alimony; in a few states, you can qualify for palimony if you have lived with your partner for several years. Shaun Connell from Writing Tips Institute said, "the earning capacity of each spouse is the primary determinant for alimony in a divorce.

In order to be eligible for alimony, you must show that you have less earning capacity than your spouse. If your spouse has a higher-paying job than you or is more successful at their job than you are, then they may be able to provide alimony payments to you."

Whether a mediator or a judge decides alimony, they will request detailed financial records such as bank accounts, pay stubs, assets, and debts to determine if one spouse will be in dire financial straits after the divorce and how much the other spouse can afford to contribute. Part of this calculation is the couple's marital standard of living, which determines the kind of lifestyle they were living together.

The goal of the judge or mediator is not to ensure that both spouses maintain the same lifestyle but rather to ensure that the higher-earning spouse does not live in luxury while the other struggles to make ends meet.

The duration of the marriage is also crucial. Since there probably wasn't enough time for one spouse to become financially dependent on the other, alimony is unlikely to be awarded in marriages of one year or less. "It varies from state to state, but the length of a marriage is one of the most critical factors determining whether a spouse is eligible for alimony.

According to Texas law, a marriage must be at least ten years old. If you have been married for fewer than 10 years, you are unlikely to be eligible for alimony.

However, there are exceptions to this rule. For example, if the spouse is physically disabled to earn enough to meet regular expenses, a child is under the custody of one who's demanding alimony, or if it can be proven that you were abused by your spouse during the marriage and divorce proceedings, you might be able to receive alimony even if you are within the first 10 years of your marriage," said Tiffany Homan from Texas Divorce Lawyers.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

You and your ex-spouse can agree to have the court order say how long alimony will last. The judge will decide what is best for your situation if you disagree.

Permanent alimony, sometimes known as indefinite alimony, continues until one spouse dies or until the court determines that alimony is no longer necessary. Time-limited alimony, also known as rehabilitative alimony, is confined to a period specified by the judge. This allows the receiving spouse time to return to work and become financially independent again.

Reimbursement alimony is a type of alimony that pays back any money put into the other spouse's education or business. For example, If you helped your spouse start a business and got divorced soon after, the judge might award you reimbursement alimony until the "debt" is paid off.

Can An Alimony Order Be Stopped Or Changed After The Divorce?

You and your spouse can designate how spousal support can be changed in your settlement agreement. When a judge orders you spousal support, they will also evaluate if and under what circumstances future modifications are possible.

If your settlement agreement has no rules for changing alimony in the future, you can contact your ex to see if you can reach an arrangement. If you cannot agree on an amount, you will need to petition a judge to adjust spousal support, and state law will control the matter.

If there has been a substantial change in circumstances, most courts will allow a modification. For example, say you lose your job or are diagnosed with a serious medical condition; in that case, a judge may order a temporary modification for the duration of the changed circumstances. If you quit your work voluntarily or choose a position with fewer duties and compensation, a judge cannot adjust your alimony payments.

Under certain circumstances and conditions, alimony can be automatically terminated. For example, if the spouse receiving payments dies, remarries, moves in with a new significant other, or becomes financially independent or self-sufficient.

The Bottom Line

The court compares each spouse's cost of living to their income, if any, to determine their financial needs. Then it determines the amount of deficiency if one spouse's income is insufficient to cover their daily living expenses. Alimony is intended to compensate for this deficiency. The length of the marriage is always an important factor in determining whether someone is eligible for alimony payments.

Alimony's purpose has evolved as two-income families have become the norm rather than one spouse's financial dependence on the other. The goal is for both parties to maintain their standard of living following the divorce or separation.

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