Alimony, a financial award of support from one spouse to another in divorce, may be permanent in some cases. Courts commonly award temporary or rehabilitative alimony; these types of alimony end on a specific date or when the receiving spouse is able to support herself. Permanent alimony, by contrast, has no specific end. Whether a paying spouse can end permanent alimony depends on why the alimony was awarded and what has changed since the original award.
Courts don't typically award permanent alimony; however, these courts will do so if the spouses agree to it, or if they had a prior agreement that called for permanent alimony in the event of a divorce. The court must decide the award amount if the parties didn't set an amount in an agreement. The court considers various factors when deciding a permanent alimony award amount to a divorcing spouse. Contributions to the marriage with regard to a spouse's education or career, the debt and martial asset division, their earning potentials and the marriage length are all considered by a judge. The judge will also look at the age and health of both spouses, as these factors affect financial need and future earning potential.
Change in Circumstances
A change in circumstances of either party may end permanent alimony. However, one party must petition the court to terminate the alimony because of the changed circumstances, and the court must agree the new circumstances warrant an end to the alimony. Acceptable circumstances vary by court and case but usually involve a change the court couldn't anticipate when it awarded the alimony. For example, if the paying spouse suffers a permanent, serious injury that greatly reduces his earning capacity, the court may end the permanent award. If the receiving spouse has a financial windfall and now has a net worth that is substantially more than the net worth of the paying spouse, the court may end the alimony.
Remarriage or New Relationship
A court may end permanent alimony if the receiving party remarries or enters into a supporting relationship, as determined by the court and state laws. A financially supporting relationship means the recipient spouse has entered a long-term relationship with another person, and they live together and share living expenses. A person paying permanent alimony must petition the court to end the payments based on the ex-spouse's new relationship.
If the permanent alimony award was granted by the court because of a prenuptial agreement or an agreement the couple made while married, it's possible to stop the alimony because a condition included in the original agreement has occurred. For example, if a couple included a provision in a prenuptial agreement that stated permanent alimony ends if the receiving spouse earns more than the paying spouse by a specific amount, the paying spouse can petition the court for award termination once the receiving spouse's income reaches that level. The alimony is still considered permanent because there is no guarantee the event will happen.