During a divorce case, a judge will often award alimony if one spouse financially depends on the other. Alimony is also called spousal support or maintenance. Depending on the circumstances of a divorce, a court may award alimony for a specific period of time, permanently, or zero spousal support.
Moreover, the rules governing alimony vary from one state to the next. In some jurisdictions spouses must have been married for a certain period of time to be eligible for spousal support.
Here, we lay out general alimony rules across the US, but if you have specific questions, please contact the experienced Wilmington family lawyers at Speaks Family Law Firm today.
General Alimony Rules
Once divorce in the country became a possibility, couples could only divorce based on misconduct. Given that it was the husband’s misconduct that ruined the marriage, he was expected to pay alimony. On the other hand, wives who committed the misconduct could forfeit their right to spousal support. Additionally, wives who cheated on their husbands weren’t eligible to get alimony.
No-fault divorces came into existence during the second half of the 20th century. But still, some states made spousal support conditional on which party was at fault. Today, a split exists across the US: marital fault plays a role in determining alimony allocation in half of the states.
Permanent alimony is spousal support awarded either for life or till the age of retirement. Some state laws dictate that a spouse cannot be mandated to make alimony payments past the retirement age of 65. Additionally, some states have a limit on the duration of permanent spousal support, prohibiting awards lasting longer than a decade. This is not the case in North Carolina.
Nowadays, rehabilitative alimony is replacing permanent alimony. It bridges the gap between the divorce date and the time the dependent party becomes financially independent.
How Long Do You Have To Be Married To Get Alimony?
When one spouse depends on the other for finances, a certain assumption applies. The courts assume the dependent spouse has been in marriage long enough to forgo studies or work opportunities. Super-short marriages of a few years or less rarely result in a prolonged spousal support awards. But, most states do not have a minimum amount of time for a dependent spouse to be eligible for alimony.
Some jurisdictions do have a set minimum period before a spouse is eligible for support. For instance, in Mississippi, Tennessee and Maine, courts will only award spousal support in marriages lasting longer than a decade. In such states, alimony payments cannot last longer than half of the marriage’s length unless extenuating circumstances apply. For example, In Texas, marriages must be at least 10 years long for alimony awards, and payments only last 3 years. That’s excluding any extenuating circumstances like a physical disability.
Determining how much alimony a spouse may be eligible to get and the duration of the payments can be difficult. Most states do not have clear guidelines on how a judge should calculate alimony. Hence, spousal support awards vary from one county to another and even from one judge to the next.
A competent family law lawyer from Speaks Family Law Firm because they have the experience you need and may have insight on how your judge’s usually gives rulings in alimony matters. Therefore, if you are trying to negotiate spousal support with your spouse, you should both have attorneys for a smoother process.