Alimony, also known as spousal support, is awarded by a court to provide for a spouse during a period of separation or divorce. Generally speaking, alimony is based on one party’s need, and the other party’s ability to pay. Alimony can be awarded on a temporary or permanent basis, and is paid either periodically, in a lump sum, or less frequently, in-kind. Alimony awarded on a temporary basis (while a divorce is pending) is generally paid to maintain the status quo, whereas alimony awarded post-divorce tends to be rehabilitative in nature, in that it is intended to give the recipient party a chance to get on their feet while adjusting to the change from married to single life.
Courts take different factors into consideration when determining if and how much alimony they should award. Generally speaking, the factors considered by the courts include the length of the parties’ marriage, the financial resources of the parties, the conduct of a spouse (for example, a requesting spouse who has committed adultery is generally barred from receiving alimony). Other factors that may be considered include the age and health of both spouses, a need for re-education or training to get a job that will provide enough support, contributions made during the marriage, and whether paying alimony would allow the payer to maintain their own self-sufficiency.
It is important to remember that if there is a material change in the circumstances of either the paying or receiving party, periodic alimony can be modified, either upward or downward. For this reason, you should consult with your attorney whenever you experience a material change in your financial circumstance.
With so many factors to consider, negotiations can be tricky and an attorney with skill and knowledge is your best resource should you elect to pursue an award of alimony. Lisa Sowers has extensive experience in pursuing alimony awards for her clients, and in having awards modified.