Alimony, or spousal support in most states, is financial support given to a spouse during a separation or divorce case. Alimony eases the transition for a spouse who has a lower earning ability while they become self-sufficient.
Alimony is gender-neutral. Either spouse may request spousal support. In nearly all states, there is no guarantee of a support order. The requesting party must show an actual need for support and that the respondent is able to pay.
Types of Support
There are several types of support considered during a divorce. Each state has its own rules, but they have many things in common. If you are considering divorce and believe you will need spousal support, you should get legal advice about alimony in your state.
- Temporary support: Also called “pendente lite" support. When couples separate before a divorce, the judge may issue temporary orders for support until the judge issues a permanent order.
- Rehabilitative support: This is the most common type of support. Alimony no longer lasts the recipient's lifetime. Alimony orders last for a specific period of time, usually half the duration of the marriage.
- Permanent support: Also called "indefinite" support. Court orders are seldom made for permanent support today. A judge may order permanent support if the recipient spouse is old, disabled, or otherwise unable to become self-sufficient.
In all states, the judge has discretion to award spousal support. The judge weighs a list of factors to decide if a spouse needs support. The spouse has a limited time for self-sufficiency. The factors include, but are not limited to:
- The duration of the marriage: Long-term marriages of 10 years or more are more likely to receive alimony. Some states will not award alimony to marriages under three years
- A showing of actual need and actual ability to pay: Judges will not impoverish one spouse to enrich the other
- A minor child requiring a stay-at-home parent: In rare cases, an infant might need full-time parental care not covered by the child support order. In that case, the judge would award additional alimony
- The earning ability and future prospects of each spouse
- The age and health of each spouse: The judge may order support if a spouse requires more health care or health insurance after the divorce
- The standard of living enjoyed by the couple during the marriage
- The contribution of each spouse to the marriage
- The amount and nature of marital property
Child support guidelines are separate from spousal support. They will not affect a marital support order. Child custody arrangements will not impact spousal support.
A domestic violence conviction in some states will bar a recipient from receiving support. In California, judges will not force a spouse to make support payments to their abuser. A restraining order can prevent a spouse from requesting support in other states.
State Forms and Laws
This list contains current links to state divorce forms where available. Some states may have additional requirements or restrictions. Always consult a divorce attorney in your area before filing for divorce or spousal support.
In Delaware, "alimony" is financial support paid after the divorce is final. "Spousal support" is paid during a legal separation, with no divorce action pending. Delaware law (13 Del. C. § 502) requires spouses to support one another in need.
District of Columbia
Spousal support must be requested. It is separate from any child support or other awards. Adultery or abandonment will negate any claims for alimony.
Illinois uses a complex formula for calculating alimony. The duration and amount of support are based on the length of the marriage and the difference between the spouses' incomes.
Kansas courts will not award alimony for more than 121 months. Parties may file for modification before or after that period.
Massachusetts allows a former spouse to petition for alimony after the divorce has been finalized. If the original complaint failed to mention alimony and the judge didn't enter it on the divorce decree, you can still ask for it if you need financial support.
Spousal support is not included in Michigan's self-help divorce worksheet. You will need a divorce attorney to request alimony.
New Hampshire allows parties to file for alimony within five years of the divorce decree or annulment.
Rhode Island allows litigants to file a request for “separate maintenance," distinct from spousal support. Separate maintenance is used in separations and means the parties are not divorcing.
Have Questions About Alimony Forms in Your State? Speak With an Attorney Today
Besides alimony, the sheer volume of court forms surrounding legal filings in a divorce is astonishing. Child custody and parenting time, property division, and even retirement benefits are all part of the divorce decree. Finding a divorce attorney you trust makes all the difference in securing your financial security and giving you peace of mind. Don't go it alone; find an experienced divorce attorney in your area.