Alimony, now known as “spousal support,” helps mitigate some of the economic unfairness of a divorce or legal separation. When one spouse makes much more money than the other, the lower-earning spouse can suffer a dramatic loss of income after the marriage ends. For this reason, a judge might award the lower-earning spouse financial support.
However, the legal system’s attitude toward alimony has shifted over the last 50 years. Once upon a time, judges automatically gave wives spousal support, often for an indefinite amount of time. Today, both spouses can qualify, but a court performs a more searching analysis before awarding support.
Analyzing Whether You Qualify
Generally, you might qualify for spousal support if your spouse makes considerably more than you do. However, a judge must analyze more than a dozen factors when deciding whether to award alimony. Among the factors are:
- Relative earning power of each spouse
- Each spouse’s age
- Each spouse’s mental, emotional, and physical condition
- The length of the marriage
- Whether a spouse can work after divorce or whether he or she will be staying at home to raise small children
- How much each person contributed to the other’s education, training, or career
- How long it will take for a person to become self-sufficient after the divorce
No one factor controls the analysis. Instead, a judge looks at everything and has the discretion to award spousal support or not.
Determining How Long You Can Receive Alimony
A judge will use the factors above to determine the length of alimony as well. Typically, judges prefer to order alimony for a limited amount of time, and they include the end date in their court order. Some spouses might qualify for permanent alimony.
Consider, for example, a wife who is disabled and cannot work. She might qualify for a permanent award of alimony since it is unlikely she can ever support herself. Her claim for permanent alimony will be stronger if the marriage lasted a long time.
However, a spouse who needs to finish up a college degree and gain work experience to become self-sufficient might only receive alimony for a few years. After that point, the judge assumes that the person can now take care of him or herself and has no need for continuing spousal support.
Agreeing to Alimony
Spouses are free to come up with an agreement on spousal support as part of their divorce. You can draft an agreement laying out how much alimony will be paid and for how long. Spouses can also waive their right to alimony.
Spousal support is different than child support. Parents cannot waive a child’s right to child support, but an adult can waive his or her right to spousal support. If you are going through a divorce, you should carefully consider whether you want to waive spousal support. Your spouse might insist that you do, but you do have options.
Discuss Spousal Support with a Dayton Divorce Lawyer
Divorce can spell financial ruin for some people. Fortunately, spousal support can keep you on your feet until you are able to support yourself independently. At Comunale Law Office, we are happy to meet with you to discuss whether you should request spousal support during your divorce. We can also build a compelling case for the judge. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.