Are you in the divorce process and wondering, how does alimony work?

We understand that divorces are often difficult processes. Not just in the emotional aspect but also the financial aspect. 

Divorces can cost thousands of dollars on average. That may or may not include lawyer fees, filing fees, and more. There are decisions that are made during the divorce process that affect each spouse’s financial responsibility to their ex after the divorce is finalized. The two most common ones are alimony and child support.

This article will explain how alimony works and more on when it applies.

How Does Alimony Work?

First of all, what is alimony? An alimony payment (also known as a “spousal” or “maintenance” payment) is a predetermined sum that is paid to a spouse or former spouse regularly after a separation or divorce.

In other words, alimony is one spouse paying the other after a divorce (or while) a divorce lawsuit is pending.

Generally speaking, alimony is defined as one spouse’s payment to the other, whether ordered by a court or agreed upon by the couple, following a divorce or while a divorce case is pending.

Although different states use different terms for alimony, such as spousal support and maintenance, they all mean essentially the same thing in most cases. 

What Determines the Alimony Process

State laws on alimony govern how it is administered and how judges determine when, how much, and how long to award spousal support.

In general, when determining the amount of alimony to be paid, the courts consider the following factors:

  • How much money each person could reasonably earn every month
  • What their reasonable expenses are going to be
  • And whether an alimony award from one to the other would allow each to maintain a lifestyle that was somewhat similar to what the couple had before they divorced—a term used in divorce law to refer to “the standard of living established during the marriage.”

In many cases, there isn’t enough money to allow both parties to reestablish a standard of living close to their pre-divorce state. In these cases, judges will usually look for a way to force the divorcing parties to share the financial burden equitably. 

If the pair cannot reach an agreement, a court may determine that one of the parties has a legal obligation to provide financial support to the other, through alimony.

When is Alimony Not Issued?

If both spouses earn approximately the same amount per year or if the marriage is relatively new, alimony payments may not be issued. 

At the outset of the alimony decree, a judge—or both parties—might also specify an expiration date. The payer is no longer required to provide financial support to their spouse after that date.

Alimony laws in each state outline the factors that judges must consider when determining whether or not to award alimony in any given case and the amount and duration of payments. 

In many states, the law specifies that when determining alimony, the judge should consider how much support each party would require to maintain the standard of living established during the marital relationship.

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