What Are My Chances of Getting Alimony Indefinitely?

By Rob Jennings J.D.

The laws regarding spousal support, or alimony, vary from state to state. However, pursuant to a divorce, typically one spouse is ordered to support the other spouse based on the need of the recipient and other party's ability to pay. Awards can be lump sums, continue for a specified period of time or last indefinitely. In deciding whether to award permanent alimony, a court will take a broad look at the parties' circumstances.

The laws regarding spousal support, or alimony, vary from state to state. However, pursuant to a divorce, typically one spouse is ordered to support the other spouse based on the need of the recipient and other party's ability to pay. Awards can be lump sums, continue for a specified period of time or last indefinitely. In deciding whether to award permanent alimony, a court will take a broad look at the parties' circumstances.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Courts have broad discretion in determining the length of alimony awards once they decide that you need and should receive it. Instead of awarding permanent alimony, courts sometimes award "rehabilitative" alimony. This type of support lasts for a specified time to allow the dependent spouse to become self-supporting, often by furthering her education or with vocational training. In some jurisdictions, a spouse may only receive permanent alimony if rehabilitation is impossible. Rehabilitative alimony is more likely to be awarded in the context of a late-in-life marriage or a marriage of relatively short duration.

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Duration of the Marriage

While the specific factors a court considers when awarding alimony vary by jurisdiction, it is common for judges to place great emphasis on the duration of a marriage in deciding whether or not to award alimony on a permanent basis. If your marriage lasted for multiple decades, and you stayed home to raise children, your chances of receiving permanent alimony become greater. Homemaker spouses in long marriages have generally foregone career opportunities and structured their lives in reliance upon the marriage. Often they have done so to foster their spouses' careers. Generally, most courts believe that the longer you were married to your spouse, the more entrenched you became in a certain lifestyle and the harder it will be to reach a level where you can be self-supporting.

Age and Health Factors

Courts also commonly consider your age and physical and mental health. Just as these factors increase the amount of alimony you need, they also increase the length of time you're likely to receive it. If you have a permanent disability that hinders your employability and that can't be overcome with appropriate education or vocational training, you may be more likely to receive alimony on a permanent basis.

Modification or Termination

Even if a court does award alimony on a permanent basis, it still might not end up being truly permanent. Like child custody or child support, a party can generally petition the court to modify, or change, the terms of the award. Modifications of alimony awards must be based on substantial and material changes of circumstances affecting either the paying spouse's ability to pay or the receiving spouse's need for support. In some situations -- such as your remarriage or moving in with a romantic partner -- a court can terminate alimony no matter how much you may continue to need it.

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Can a Divorced Wife Sue for More Alimony?

References

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How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Receive Spousal Support?

Spousal support, or alimony, refers to the payments made to one spouse by the other during a separation of after a divorce. It is based either on an agreement between the couple or by a determination of the court. The purpose of spousal support is to limit any unfair economic effects of the divorce to the receiving spouse who is typically a non-wage earner or the lower-wage earner of the two. For example, a spouse who left the workforce to raise the couple's children might need money to get job training that will help her support herself after the divorce. While the length of the marriage is a factor that courts consider before awarding spousal support, it is usually not the only consideration.

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Ensuring that neither party is left in a financially unfair position following the breakup of a marriage is an integral part of the divorce process. In Michigan, spousal support, also known as alimony, is meant to provide a spouse with the same standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. Determining when spousal support will cease, if ever, is an important consideration a judge must take into account in making an award. Further, although modification of the type or amount of the award on the basis of a change in conditions is generally the rule, parties can agree not to modify.

How to Calculate Lifetime Alimony in Florida

An understanding of the factors involved in a determination of the type and amount of alimony that can be awarded creates more realistic expectations heading into court. In Florida, lifetime alimony, also known as permanent alimony, can be deemed appropriate in certain situations. While the parties can reach a mutual agreement on the issue of alimony, the court will look to specific factors, including financial need and ability to pay, in ordering lifetime alimony payment amounts. Further, modification or termination may be requested if there is a substantial change of circumstances.

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