Why Does Alimony Exist?

By: Kevin JensenJune 1, 2024 -
Why does alimony exist

Alimony exists to provide financial support to a spouse after a divorce, ensuring that both parties can maintain a standard of living close to what they were used to during the marriage. It recognizes that one partner may have sacrificed their career for marriage or raising children.

This financial aid helps prevent financial disparity and allows the recipient time to become self-sufficient. The concept of alimony is rooted in fairness and support, not punishment.

If you need help with a legal separation or divorce, our law office is here to protect your rights. At Genesis Family Law & Divorce Lawyers, we understand that questions about an alimony award can be complicated. We also know that unpaid alimony can create serious hardship.

Learn more about determining alimony below. Then, contact us for help with your divorce proceedings.

Purposes of Alimony

The primary purpose of alimony is to provide temporary financial support to a spouse who earns less or none. This helps the lower-earning or non-earning spouse cover their living expenses while they adjust to a new life post-divorce.

Alimony also acknowledges the contributions a spouse may have made to the household that wasn't financial, such as homemaking or child care. It ensures that these contributions are recognized financially in divorce settlements.

Alimony also supports spouses who have put their careers on hold to support the family. This can help them train, gain skills, or find employment to become financially independent. The goal is to allow them to maintain a reasonable standard of living until they can do so.

Alimony isn't just about money—it's about providing a buffer during a major life transition.

Situations Where Spousal Support Is Ordered

Courts typically order spousal support when there is a substantial income disparity between the spouses. This can be because one spouse is the primary earner while the other manages home and family responsibilities.

Courts also consider the duration of the marriage; longer marriages often lead to longer periods of spousal support. The longer a couple is together, the harder it might be for the other spouse to become financially independent.

Another common scenario is when one spouse needs time to gain skills or education to become employable. This is particularly true for spouses who sacrificed their career progression or education to support the family.

Health issues that prevent a spouse from becoming fully self-sufficient may also warrant spousal support. Each case is evaluated based on its circumstances to ensure fairness.

Types of Spousal Support

Types of spousal support

Several types of spousal support are tailored to different divorce circumstances. Every case is different, so one alimony award will not necessarily impact the spousal maintenance awarded in your case. Some of the most common types of alimony include:

Temporary Alimony

Temporary alimony is granted during the divorce process and ends when the divorce is finalized. It helps the lower-earning spouse manage living expenses and legal costs associated with the divorce. It's designed to maintain the status quo until a final decision is made.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony may be granted in long-term marriages where one spouse might have trouble becoming financially independent because of the length of the marriage, medical concerns, or age.

This type of support continues until the recipient remarries or either spouse dies. It's less common now but still applicable in specific situations.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative alimony is intended to support a spouse until they can support themselves through employment. This might be used to fund education or training programs. The goal is to allow the recipient time to become self-sufficient, and it typically has a fixed duration.

Reimbursement Alimony

Reimbursement alimony compensates an individual for the expenses they may have covered, such as educational costs for the other spouse. This type is used when one spouse supports the other through professional or educational development during the marriage.

Lump Sum Alimony

Lump sum alimony is a fixed amount paid simultaneously instead of regular payments. It might be chosen instead of a property settlement or when one spouse prefers to sever all financial ties in one transaction. Lump sum alimony provides clarity and closure to both parties.

Determining Spousal Support Amounts

Courts consider a handful of factors when deciding the amount of spousal support. Each factor will affect whether the court awards alimony and, if so, how much.

Factors Considered by Courts

  • Income and living standards. Courts look at the standard of living during the marriage and the income of the divorcing spouses. This helps determine an amount that maintains a semblance of the marital lifestyle.
  • Length of the marriage. Generally, longer marriages lead to longer or higher alimony payments because of increased interdependence.
  • Age and health of both spouses. These factors affect employability and the need for support. Older or less healthy spouses might receive more prolonged or substantial support. At the same time, each situation is different, so you need a lawyer to fight for your rights.
  • Future earning capacity. Courts assess the potential for future earnings of both spouses. This includes considering career sacrifices made by one spouse during the marriage.
  • Contributions to the marriage. Non-financial contributions, such as homemaking or raising children, are also considered when deciding alimony amounts. These roles support the career growth of the other spouse and are acknowledged financially in alimony decisions.

Duration of Alimony Payments

Duration of alimony payments

The duration of alimony payments can change depending on the type of alimony and the specifics of the marriage and divorce.

Courts typically set a period during which payments will occur, but this can be adjusted based on changes in circumstances. Permanent alimony, for example, continues indefinitely unless there is a substantial change in life circumstances.

In many cases, the duration of alimony is linked to the time it might take the receiving spouse to become self-sufficient.

Temporarily or rehabilitative alimony might be tied to the time needed to complete education or training programs. The goal is always to achieve fairness and support the transition to post-divorce life.

Conditions for Termination

  • Remarriage of the recipient. Alimony usually ends if the recipient remarries. This change signifies a new support system that replaces the need for alimony from the ex-spouse.
  • Financial independence of the recipient. If the recipient becomes financially self-sufficient, alimony payments can be reassessed and potentially terminated.
  • Changes in the income of the paying spouse. Major changes in the financial situation of the paying spouse, such as job loss, can lead to modifications in alimony.
  • Retirement of the paying spouse. Retirement can change the financial landscape considerably. Courts might consider reducing or terminating alimony if the payer retires.
  • Death of either spouse. Alimony obligations typically end with the death of either the payer or the recipient. However, some agreements might include provisions for continued support to the estate or dependents. Child custody issues can play a role.

Legal Process for Alimony Decisions

  1. Filing for divorce. One spouse files for divorce, and alimony is considered part of the financial settlements.
  2. Financial assessments. Both spouses disclose their financial situations. This includes income, debts, assets, and expenses.
  3. Negotiations. Spouses may try to reach an agreement on alimony through negotiation or mediation.
  4. Court considerations. If no agreement is reached, the court considers various factors to determine alimony.
  5. Alimony order. The court issues an alimony order specifying the amount and duration of payments.
  6. Implementation. The paying spouse starts making alimony payments as specified in the order.
  7. Enforcement. Legal actions may be taken to enforce alimony if the paying spouse does not make payments.

Modifying Alimony Orders

Sometimes, changes in circumstances necessitate reviewing and modifying alimony orders. This ensures that the arrangements remain fair over time. Courts are open to reassessing alimony if substantial changes justify it.

Continued financial support is important, but it must align with current realities. If their lives significantly change, both spouses can request a modification of the alimony order. The goal is to maintain fairness based on current circumstances, not just the conditions at the time of the divorce.

If you need help changing an alimony award, we can help. We will review the original order, compare it to the current situation, and file appropriate actions to ensure your voice is heard.

Conditions for Modification

  • Substantial income change. If there's a substantial change in either spouse's income, this could warrant a modification of alimony.
  • Health issues. New health issues that affect earning capacity or financial needs can lead to adjustments in alimony payments.
  • Economic conditions. Changes in economic conditions, such as inflation or the cost of living, can affect the adequacy of alimony.
  • Employment changes. New employment or loss of employment by either spouse can lead to reassessing alimony needs.
  • Change in dependent status. Changes in dependents' needs, such as children aging out of child support, can impact alimony considerations.

Why You Need Legal Representation

Why you need legal representation

Navigating the complexities of alimony requires skilled legal representation. Family law attorneys specialize in understanding how to present your case effectively to achieve fair outcomes. They can guide you through negotiations or court proceedings, ensuring your interests are well-represented.

Having a divorce lawyer by your side can seriously affect alimony decisions. They provide not just legal expertise but also support through emotionally charged proceedings. Their experience in similar cases can provide vital insights and strategies for your case.

Contact Genesis Family Law & Divorce Lawyers For Help With Spousal Support

Contact Genesis Family Law & Divorce Lawyers for help with spousal support

If you're facing issues with alimony or need guidance on spousal support, contact Genesis Family Law & Divorce Lawyers.

We offer a free consultation to discuss your specific circumstances and how we can help. Our experienced attorneys will protect your personal and financial interests during and after your divorce.

If you have questions about who should pay alimony or how alimony awards are calculated, we can help you. Contact us today to schedule a free case consultation.