Finances and Divorce: What Is Alimony?

Dealing with finances and divorce can be very difficult for both parties involved. When a divorce takes place, many times alimony will play a significant role in the financial aspect of the divorce. Here are the basics of alimony.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is a form of payment that is made from one spouse to another. Often, when a divorce is decided in the courts, the judge will specify a certain amount that must be paid between the spouses. The spouse that makes the most amount of money will be responsible for paying a certain sum of money to the other spouse.

How It Is Determined

Many different factors go into the decision of how much alimony should be paid. The judge will look at the financial situation of both spouses and determine what would be fair. Their goal is to not drastically affect the living standard of the spouses. Therefore, a spouse that was married to a multimillionaire is going to receive more alimony than someone who was married to someone in the middle class.

Each state has its own rules when it comes to determining alimony. Therefore, depending on where you live, you will have to deal with different terms.

How are alimony payments determined?

Alimony payments are determined by looking at several factors involving both spouses in the divorce. The judge will also refer to state laws in order to make a determination. The spouse that earns more money will be the one that has to pay alimony to the other spouse. The judge will try to make it possible for both parties to enjoy a lifestyle as close as possible to the lifestyle they had during the marriage. The judge will also take into consideration lost earning potential from giving up a career if one spouse stayed home with children. After looking at all of the facts, the judge will make a decision.

Can alimony payments be reduced?

Alimony payments are generally not that easy to change; however, if you are willing to take the case back to court with some new type of evidence in your favor, the judge could potentially alter the alimony payments to some degree. You will have to be able to show the judge that some circumstances have changed since the last time you were in court. Alimony payments that are based on splitting marital assets are not usually eligible for changes. Alimony payments that are based on financial needs could be altered. For example, if one spouse's financial situation changes drastically after getting a good job or remarrying, the spouse paying alimony payments could get the payments reduced or eliminated. 

How long do you have to have been married to receive alimony?

When trying to decide whether a spouse will receive alimony, the judge will often look at the length of the marriage. If the judge considers the marriage to be short, she may not award any alimony at all. However, if the marriage is considered lengthy, then the judge will award some type of alimony payment in most cases. There is not a specific amount of time that will qualify you for alimony. It is completely up to the discretion of the judge and the precedents in the state in which the case is taking place.

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