Factors Considered When Determining Alimony

I once saw an Alimony Support Calculator online, much like a mortgage calculator. For those, you can plug in the length of mortgage, interest rate, and amount borrowed and come up with your monthly payment. This alimony calculator asked you to plug in three things: length of the marriage, gross annual income, and net annual income.

I chuckled because alimony is much more complicated. Like many areas of family law, it can vary widely from state to state. But I can give you some general guidelines of the factors the court will consider when determining the amount of alimony to be awarded after a divorce.

  1. The length of the marriage

In general, the longer a couple has been married, the more likely a spouse will be granted alimony. Some states set of a minimum of ten years for a couple to be married before considering awarding alimony.

  1. The income and financial resources of each spouse

While not too long ago, men generally paid alimony to women because the women were more likely to be out of the workforce, now women may have to pay alimony to men. Sometimes quite a lot, depending on their income. When Britney Spears divorced her second husband of three years, Kevin Federline, she was ordered to pay him $40,000 a month.

  1. The standard of living established during the marriage

The goal of alimony is that each spouse continues to enjoy the same standard of living they enjoyed during marriage once the marriage is over. If you are asking for alimony, you will have to establish how much money you need to maintain your lifestyle. But the court also considers the spouse’s ability to pay that amount.

When Italy’s prime minister, the notorious Silvio Berlusconi, divorced his second wife in 2009, he was ordered to pay $4 million a month in alimony. Apparently, their standard of living was quite high.

  1. The age and physical condition of each spouse

A 35-year-old spouse seeking alimony has a much better chance of establishing a career after a divorce and supporting herself than a 65-year-old. What is the potential earning capacity of the spouse seeking alimony? If there is a physical impairment or illness limiting a person’s ability to work, that is a factor as well.

  1. The contribution of each person to the marriage

For example, was one person’s career affected by raising children? Did one spouse work and pay for the education of the other? If a husband or wife stayed home for several years to take care of children, the court will consider that when awarding alimony. Or maybe the wife worked for several years to support the family while the husband went to medical school. That too could be a factor.

I have written previously on “The Role of Infidelity in Divorce.” While the admission of adultery doesn’t generally affect the division of assets, it can come into play during a discussion of alimony.

The issue of alimony can be complex. The most important thing you can do in a divorce is to employ good, experienced legal counsel. Feel free to contact me to discuss your situation.