Are You Eligible for Spousal Support (Alimony) After Your Divorce?

When Amber walked down the aisle eight years ago, she thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with Marcus. After their second child came along four years ago, they decided that Amber should leave her job as a product manager to take care of the children full time while Marcus continued working as a sales manager. Life didn’t work out the way Amber had hoped. She and Marcus drifted apart. Now, Amber feels that divorce is inevitable, but she worries about her finances. She knows that Marcus would be required to pay child support if she has primary custody of the children, but what about her expenses? She knows it will be hard to get back into the job field and that she might need to return to school to receive more training.

Amber’s story might sound similar to yours. If you are considering divorce, you may wonder how you will be able to maintain your lifestyle as a single woman, especially if you are not currently working. This is exactly why alimony (also called spousal support or spousal maintenance) was created. When you get divorced, in most states a judge can order your spouse to make payments to you for a while to help you get back on your feet as you re-establish yourself on your new path.

Do you qualify for alimony? That depends on a lot of different factors.

Alimony Today

The alimony laws are different from state to state (some states use the term “spousal support” instead of “alimony”), so you will need to discuss this with a divorce attorney in your state to get a clear picture of whether a judge is likely to grant you alimony. It’s important to be aware that many judges today are awarding alimony on a decreasing basis and for shorter durations. It is still worth it for you to explore the possibility of receiving alimony after a divorce, especially if you’ve been married to your spouse for many years and there is a considerable income disparity between you and your husband.

Long Marriage

The longer you and your spouse were married, the more likely you will receive alimony and the longer the alimony duration is likely to be. If you were only married for a year before divorce, your chances of winning alimony are slim; however, if you’ve been married for ten years or more and can show a significant disparity in income, you will have a good chance of getting alimony.  Amber was married to Marcus for eight years, which may be long enough for a judge to grant her alimony.

Income Disparity

In order to be awarded alimony, you must show that your spouse earns significantly more income than you, or that you stayed out of the workforce to take care of the home or children. If you earn more than your husband or your incomes are nearly equal, a judge won’t see any reason to provide you with alimony. For instance, if Marcus earned $80,000 a year as a sales manager and Amber earned $60,000 a year as a product manager, a judge would likely presume that Amber could support herself on her salary alone. However, since Amber dropped out of the workforce to care for the couple’s children, she has a good chance of receiving alimony.

How Much Alimony Can I Expect?

The amount of alimony you can expect from your spouse after a divorce will depend in large part on his income and how much a judge believes he can spare on alimony. This is one of the many areas where a divorce can get nasty. Some spouses may try to under-report income to avoid alimony payments. If you can, try to obtain evidence of your spouse’s earnings prior to filing for divorce and make sure all of your records are in good order.

Judges and state laws can be fickle, so don’t assume alimony is coming your way. Even if you do receive alimony, it won’t allow you to live the same quality of life as when you were married. You’ll still need to prepare for a very different financial life once you separate from your spouse, especially if you earned significantly less than him.

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