How Do You Know If You Qualify For Alimony? - Kimberly Hays Law | Divorce Lawyer | Tulsa, OK
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How Do You Know If You Qualify For Alimony?

How Do You Know If You Qualify For Alimony?

During a divorce proceeding, alimony (also called spousal support or spousal maintenance) can be a point of contention that triggers strong emotions. Couples often face each other in court over this issue.

The term alimony has its roots in the Latin word for “nourishment” and essentially means “money for sustenance”. It originated in England during a period when divorce was not allowed, and therefore the husband had a legal obligation to financially support his wife when they separated while still being married.

The difference in income and assets between spouses is often significant. It is important to understand that alimony and child support are different things. Child support is intended solely for the welfare of the child, while alimony is given to a spouse. Child support is closely monitored and enforced by both federal and state governments, as failure to pay can result in families needing government assistance. Alimony, on the other hand, does not have these same enforcement measures in place.

Qualifying For Alimony

What are the Qualifications of Alimony?

Although every state has its eligibility criteria for alimony, certain basic principles apply everywhere. To be eligible for alimony, one has to be married; however, in a few states, if a couple has been living together as romantic partners for a long time but never got married, they may be eligible for something called “palimony.”

  • The duration of the marriage is a significant factor.
  • If the marriage lasted for a year or less, it is unlikely to meet the requirements for alimony since there was not sufficient time for one spouse to become financially reliant on the other.
  • However, when the marriage is longer, there is a higher probability of unequal earnings.

A professional has stated that whether or not someone will receive alimony is dependent upon the length of their marriage. In the case of a five-year marriage, where one party had to leave their job or take significant time off to care for two young children, that individual may receive spousal support until they can re-enter the job market.

  • In every alimony case, the financial situation of both spouses is considered.
  • Whether a mediator or judge decides on alimony payments, they will ask for detailed financial records–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 can afford to contribute.

One factor considered in the calculation is the “marital standard of living”. This refers to the lifestyle to which the couple had become accustomed while married, such as if they lived in a modest home or a luxurious mansion.

  • Although judges do not always ensure that both ex-spouses have the same standard of living, they will not allow one to live extravagantly while the other struggles financially.

Just one more thing to note: during divorce proceedings, a court will consider if one partner gave up higher earnings or their career to support the other partner’s education or ability to work. This is why Guillen used the example of a family with two children as the baseline for determining alimony.

  • In such cases, one partner usually leaves employment to stay at home and care for the kids while the other partner keeps working.
  • This has traditionally been a woman’s role, which explains why women have historically received most alimony payments; however, this trend is gradually changing.

How to Know If You Qualify For Alimony

What Types Of Alimony?

Some states do not recognize various forms of alimony, but for those that do, here is a summary:

  • During divorce proceedings, temporary alimony may be ordered to assist one spouse in covering legal and living expenses. For instance, if one spouse has moved out, they may need help in paying rent until the assets are officially divided.
  • The most common type of alimony is rehabilitative alimony, which provides payments to support a non-working or lower-earning spouse until they can secure a better employment opportunity. The length of time that rehabilitative alimony lasts will depend on factors such as the ages of dependent children and whether further education is required to obtain a higher-paying job. Sometimes, the judge may require the recipient to demonstrate that they are actively seeking employment to continue receiving payments.
  • As of 2018, only seven states (New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, North Carolina, West Virginia, Florida, and Oregon) allow for permanent alimony, which is typically only awarded in cases of long-term marriages (over 10 years) where one spouse is completely financially dependent on the other due to factors like disability or old age. Some states are currently attempting to ban permanent alimony because it is seen as unjust to the supporting spouse.

If you are ordered to pay alimony by a mediator or judge, they will decide on the payment terms, such as the duration of payments. It is important to note that even when referred to as “permanent,” alimony may not last indefinitely.

Typically, alimony payments stop if the receiving spouse remarries or the paying spouse dies, but in rare cases, the deceased’s estate can be sued for continued payment. The duration of rehabilitative alimony varies depending on the case and there is no set formula. However, according to Guillen, as a general rule for divorce lawyers, alimony payments are usually made for half the length of the marriage once the couple has been married for at least ten years.

Does A Non-monogamous Spouse Still Get Alimony?

If one spouse cheats and the couple gets divorced, can the cheating spouse still receive alimony? This is a valid question. In eighteen states, including the District of Columbia, divorces are considered “no-fault.” This means that both parties are treated equally by judges, regardless of the reasons behind the divorce. The judge will only take into account the financial situation of each spouse and their level of dependence on the other for support.

In most states, when you get divorced, you can choose between a “no-fault” or a “fault” divorce. Grounds for a fault divorce can range from adultery, bigamy, addiction, abuse (physical or psychological/emotional), imprisonment, and inability to have sex (impotence or other sexual dysfunction). However, even in a fault divorce, nearly all states allow the “guilty” party to receive alimony—except for Georgia.

Alimony Does Not Have To Be So Awful

According to Guillen, divorcing couples can avoid a heated emotional response to alimony, and they are not required to have a judge determine the terms of their separation. Instead, they could seek the aid of a neutral mediator to assist them in agreeing by sitting down and discussing their options around the kitchen table.

It is important to have a clear and specific written agreement for alimony, whether in the form of monthly payments or a lump sum. This agreement will be presented to the court as part of the divorce settlement and must be approved by a judge. Failure to comply with the court’s alimony order could result in charges of contempt of court, although this is uncommon. Alimony payments that are not made on time will accumulate interest over time, which usually serves as a sufficient incentive for individuals to catch up on their payments and remain compliant.

The spouse who pays could bring their complaints to court if they believe the other spouse is not following the rules, such as not searching for work. The court may modify the original order. Unfortunately, this is a common aspect of divorce, which can be lengthy and difficult.

How to Qualify For Alimony?


Alimony is a financial obligation that a court can require one spouse to pay for the support of the other. Each state has its laws governing alimony, including qualifications and payment terms, so it is important to look into your state’s regulations before filing for divorce. Some states allow couples to negotiate their divorce settlement or use a mediator to agree, while others require that the details be finalized by the court. Regardless of your state’s laws and regulations, it is important to ensure that both parties are treated fairly and responsibly. With careful consideration and planning, alimony can be managed without added stress or financial burden.

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