One of the less understood areas of United States divorce law is alimony, sometimes also known as spousal support. When clients first come to our Las Vegas divorce attorneys seeking counsel, many of them are not sure how alimony will be decided in their case, leaving them confused and worried about how pursuing a divorce will affect their financial future. In this post, we’ll discuss the basics of what alimony is, and how judges decide who has to pay it.
Paying Spousal Support
Unlike orders of child support, which have strict guidelines based on the income of parents and the needs of children, the legal framework for alimony is much vaguer, and therefore variable. The factors judges look at when deciding whether one spouse should be required to pay alimony are:
- The length of a marriage.
- The standard of living both parties had during their marriage.
- The disparity in income between the two spouses.
- The age, physical condition, mental health, and financial state of both spouses.
- The length of time it would take the spouse receiving alimony to become self-sufficient.
- The ability of the spouse paying alimony to make payments while still supporting themselves financially.
In short, alimony is usually only awarded if one spouse earns significantly more money than the other, and/or if the dissolution of the marriage would put undo financial hardship on one spouse. The length of a marriage can also affect the likelihood of a judge issuing an order for spousal support; if a marriage was very short, a judge is not likely to order one spouse to continue to support the other.
Additionally, spouses who receive alimony will likely be required to attempt to find ways to increase their income. If one spouse has only a part time job, for example, the judge may set a condition where they must attempt to find full-time work in order to receive spousal support. In these cases, the court will likely require the spouse who will receive alimony to work with court appointed specialists (sometimes called “vocational evaluators”) who will test their aptitude for different kinds of work, and then submit their information to employers.
When Does Alimony End?
Judges can set several conditions under which a spouse can stop paying spousal support, including:
- A certain date after which alimony payments will stop.
- The spouse receiving alimony starts earning enough to become self-sufficient, or remarries.
- The judge determines the spouse receiving alimony is not making enough effort to become self-sufficient.
- The spouse paying alimony retires, becomes ill, or has another change in their life that requires an order of spousal support be modified or ended.
- One of the spouses dies.
One thing to keep in mind is that alimony is not a punitive measure – its purpose is not to punish one spouse by rewarding another. Instead, alimony is a method the courts use to make sure that the end of a marriage is equitable for both parties, and that divorced spouses can maintain as close to the standard of living they had when they were married.
For more information about alimony, child support, and divorce law, contact McFarling Law Group today at 702-565-4335.