Navigating Alimony: Types, Duration, and Calculation

One of the top questions asked at the beginning of the divorce process is about how alimony works. Whether you are the spouse seeking support or the one being asked to provide it, it’s important to understand how decisions are made about whether these financial payments are warranted, how they’re calculated, and how long they need to be paid.  Generally speaking, alimony is ordered when one spouse has a significant economic advantage over the other. It is meant to eliminate financial hardships for the lower- or non-earning spouse. Here is a quick overview of the different types of alimony, how the amount to be paid is determined, and how long it is paid based on different circumstances.

Types of Alimony

There are five types of alimony: temporary, rehabilitative, permanent, reimbursement, and lump sum.

  1. Temporary, which is also known as pendente lite, is only paid during the divorce proceedings. It gives the lower-earning spouse to maintain their standard of living, but only until the divorce is final.
  2. Rehabilitative alimony is also temporary but has a different purpose. It is meant to allow the lower-earning spouse the opportunity to improve themselves through education or training so that they can earn enough money to become self-sufficient. It usually has a time limit or a milestone after which the payments stop.
  3. Permanent alimony acknowledges that the lower-earning spouse is not likely to become self-sufficient, and provides payments until they either die or remarry.
  4. Reimbursement alimony is paid in recognition of one spouse having supported the other as they worked to increase their earning capacity. It is not considered support as much as it is repayment.
  5. Lump-sum alimony calculates a one-time payment that provides immediate financial support to the receiving spouse and eliminates the need for ongoing payments.

Calculating alimony and its duration

Every state and jurisdiction has its own calculation, but all of them consider income and earning capacity for both spouses, how long the marriage lasted, the couple’s standard of living during the marriage, the health and age of both spouses, as well as their financial resources, work history and job skills, and educational background. Other considerations include non-economic contributions to the household, financial needs and obligations, and tax consequences. The same factors are considered when determining how long alimony needs to be paid, though courts may also weigh marital misconduct.

Alimony is an effort at financial fairness. It intends to provide stability during and after the divorce. Keep in mind that it can be modified in the face of a significant change.