Sherrard Law Group

What is Alimony, Will I Have to Pay, or am I Entitled to it?

What is Alimony, Will I Have to Pay, or am I Entitled to it?

At the Sherrard Law Group, we understand that navigating the rocky road of divorce is never enjoyable and rarely easy. Often, parties in a divorce come across legal terms they have never encountered before, leading to confusion and concern. The main questions our law firm receives in a dissolution of marriage case is – what is alimony, will I have to pay it, or am I entitled to it? In order to answer these questions, an understanding of alimony is needed.

When a married couple gets a divorce, the court may award “alimony” or spousal support to one of the spouses. Alimony is a court-ordered transfer of money between a higher-earning spouse to a lower-earning spouse during a period of separation, and possibly for a period of time after the party’s divorce is finalized. Contrary to popular belief, alimony isn’t only available to women; either spouse can request support. Both spouses can agree to an alimony award. However, when both spouses do not agree, alimony is then determined by the court.

 One of the first questions a court will consider is whether alimony is even appropriate in a given case. A court will only award alimony if it finds that there is (1) a financial need by the lower-earning spouse and (2) an ability to pay by the higher-earning spouse.  If the court finds that there is a legitimate need from the lower-earning spouse and an ability to pay by the higher-earning spouse, then the court must decide on the appropriate type and amount of alimony to award. The factors a court must consider when determining alimony include:

  • the standard of living established during the marriage;
  • the length of the marriage;
  • each spouse’s age and physical and emotional health;
  • both spouse’s financial resources, including the nonmarital and marital property, assets, and liabilities;
  • each spouse’s earning capacity, educational level, vocational skills, and employability and, if applicable, the time necessary for either party to acquire sufficient education or training to find employment;
  • both spouse’s contributions to the marriage, including homemaking, childcare, education, and career-building of the other spouse;
  • whether either spouse will have parental responsibilities to minor children;
  • tax consequences of alimony, if any, to both spouses;
  • all sources of income to both spouses, including income available through investments, and
  • any other factor the court deems necessary to create a fair alimony award

The length of a marriage is the period of time from the date of marriage to the date of filing a dissolution of marriage. The length of marriage for purposes of determining alimony is broken down into three categories. A short-term marriage, having a duration of less than seven years, a moderate-term marriage, having a duration of greater than seven years but less than seventeen years, and a long-term marriage, having a duration of seventeen years or greater.

When considering (e), each spouse’s earning capacity, the court may impute income to a spouse who is earning less than the spouse is capable of earning through their best efforts. To impute income means that the court will make a finding that the spouse is earning a certain amount of income for purposes of calculating the amount of alimony needed or to calculate the amount the paying spouse is able to pay, even though the spouse is unemployed or underemployed.

Remember, a skilled divorce attorney can make a monumental difference in the determination of whether alimony is awarded and the amount of that award.  That is why we invite you to contact the Sherrard Law Group for a consultation with one of our experienced divorce attorneys. In addition to assisting in understanding how alimony may affect you, we will provide you with the support you need to handle other issues that may arise as divorce proceedings develop. The qualified attorneys at the Sherrard Law Group will work diligently to help you receive a reasonable and fair divorce outcome. We look forward to serving as your trusted legal representatives during this difficult time.

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