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How is Alimony Determined? Will I Have to Pay?

determined alimony for family

This is the first entry to the series on alimony.

Much like adultery, the question of alimony can’t be answered easily.  Alimony is awarded based on seven factors, and these are:

  • Age of the parties, length of the marriage
  • Standard of living, fault
  • Education level
  • Health, and earning disparity.

Along with those factors you can add in what the Judge tends to do regarding alimony and what normally is awarded in the jurisdiction. People want to know, “Is there a formula?” Not exactly, but with the advent of recent changes in the law, there is more of a formula than there was.

Permanent Alimony and How it’s Determined

Permanent alimony, which is until you die, remarry, or cohabitate, is only awarded after a twenty- year marriage.  Alimony is not awarded for longer than the parties were married unless it is more than a twenty- year marriage.  Lastly, if the alimony will be limited for five years unless the Court can find a compelling reason that five years is not going to be sufficient for the other person.

I had fun setting out a little quiz on adultery, so let’s try it with alimony.

Examples of How Alimony is Determined

I will give you some examples and let you figure out if alimony is likely to be awarded. Here we go.

  1. The parties have been married for 20 years.  One of the parties was the primary breadwinner and the other stayed at home with the children and never pursued a degree.
  2. The parties were married three years. One party quit their high paying job to stay home with their child.
  3. The parties were married over twenty years. Both parties are retired and one party makes considerably more than the other in retirement.
  4. One of the parties makes well over $100k and the other makes $25k. The marriage was a short term marriage.  No fault.
  5. The parties were married ten years. One makes well over 100k and the other makes $25k and the party who makes $25k was cheating.
  6. The parties were married ten years. One makes over 100k and the other makes $40k and the party making over $100k was cheating.
  7. The parties were married twenty years and they make roughly the same amount.
  8. The parties were married one year and one makes vastly more than the other does.
  9. The parties both cheated on each other, five- year marriage, and big disparity in income.
  10. The parties were married 8 years.  One of the parties, was highly paid and has a good education, but is suffering from a health problem that caused them to lose their job.  They don’t have disability yet.

These examples are pretty simplistic, because the factors of child support, and other marital bills are going to play into the equation.  I knew one attorney who called one example, “A Trifecta”.  If someone has a long- term marriage, a huge disparity in income, and fault on the side of the high- income party. If that’s the case then yes, you are most likely going to get alimony for the full term you can be awarded alimony.

The answers are:  1-yes.  2- probably not.  3.  No- but retirement will be equalized.  4. No. 5. Probably not. 6.  Probably not. 7.  No. 8. No. 9. Probably not. 10. Yes.

As I write the examples, I realize that an award of alimony can vary so vastly.  The most important thing for you as someone who is at risk for alimony is to seek the advice of a qualified divorce attorney.

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