Spousal Maintenance: Who Gets How Much Alimony?

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We’ve heard stories of the woman who gets $6,000 a month from her ex-husband and questioned if that was really something a court would do. Do “average people” get spousal maintenance? Some do. Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is awarded in cases where a divorce makes it difficult for one person to keep the standard of living they had during the marriage. It is not common for a court to award alimony for marriages that were short in duration. It becomes more common with marriages that lasted 10 or 20 years, especially if one spouse has not worked for an extended period of time.

Alimony is not designed to punish a higher-earning spouse. Fault is not considered either. (In other words, just because your spouse cheated doesn’t mean you will get awarded spousal support.)

Alimony can help bridge at least part of the financial gap if you contributed more of the unpaid work during marriage. It also can take into account your age, health, or factor that might leave you unfairly disadvantaged at divorce. (This can occur with women who stayed at home to raise the children while their husbands worked high paying jobs, and vice versa.)

The court calculates the amount of spousal maintenance due, if any. This is done independent of property and asset distribution.

The court examines how you contributed to the marriage and your obligations after divorce, noting any financial resources, your level of education, your earning potential, and whether you care for any children.

The court also considers age, health, financial obligations, the standard of living you enjoyed during the marriage, and how long the marriage lasted. The court has discretion to consider other factors too. In the end, any order for maintenance is made considering your needs and your spouse’s ability to pay.

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