Am I going to receive alimony?

Spousal support or maintenance, also known as alimony, are periodic financial payments that are made by one spouse to the other in the event of a legal separation or divorce. It is designed as a way of limiting unfair or inequitable consequences that occur when couples with disparate incomes divorce. An award of alimony, is based on a number of factors, including the earning ability of one spouse,usually the wife, whether she was a stay at home mom and how much she contributed to her husband's career. Generally, a wife is considered a dependent spouse if she makes less money than her husband, and is substantially dependent upon him for her maintenance and support. Either spouse, male or female can be ordered to pay maintenance to their spouse by the court. The monetary payment can be awarded over time or in one lump sum.

The court will base the decision to award maintenance on the following criteria -

1. Length of the marriage

2. Age and health of the parties

3. Occupations of the parties and their respective incomes and earning capacities

4. Vocational skills and employability of the spouses

5. Assets and debts of the parties

6. Any special needs of the parties

7. The opportunity of the parties to acquire future income and assets

8. The spousal support provisions in a prenuptial agreement, if any.

Maintenance will be awarded only when a former spouse is unable to meet their needs without financial assistance from a spouse who can afford to pay it. Spousal support can be temporary, as when a former spouse needs time to get back into the job market, brush up on skills, complete an education program,raise children, remarry or co-habit. It may also be permanent, when a spouse may never become self-supporting due to age or disability. Therefore,spousal support is generally awarded to a spouse who has been out of work during the marriage, or makes a lower income and needs the support of the other spouse even after the divorce. However, spousal support can be modified by the court upon application based on the ability to pay, if one spouse loses their job and is unable to make the payments and suffers extreme hardship due to a medical emergency for example, or if the payee spouse remarries or co-habits, or receives a large increase in income.

The amount of maintenance payable is based on a number of factors, such as -

1. The couple's lifestyle prior to the divorce

2. How much a spouse contributed to raising a family, or supporting the other spouse's career choices, and

3. The ability of the spouses to be able to support themselves and their children financially without the help of the other spouse.

The length of time for alimony to be paid varies depending on the length of the marriage. For a marriage lasting ten years or less, the time is usually fifty percent of the length of the marriage. A long term marriage is generally considered to be more that ten years. In this case, if one spouse provides a need, the duration of assistance can go up incrementally depending on the judge. For example, if the marriage lasted fifteen years, spousal support might last for sixty to seventy percent of the marriage length, ie. as long as ten years. If the marriage lasted for twenty years or more, spousal support can be indefinite or until retirement or remarriage. "Pendente Lite" maintenance is an award of temporary maintenance prior to a trial which is designed to allow the recipient to sustain himself or herself until a final determination of maintenance is made by the court.

A request for alimony may be denied by a court if the marriage was short term, ie.no more than a few years, or if the requesting spouse is in gainfully employed, or if this spouse is healthy and in a fit condition to find employment, without children to take care of.