How to Request Alimony
During Your Divorce Process
If you are filing a Complaint for Divorce then the request for alimony can be made within that complaint. See Divorce for an explanation of how the process works when you are asking for alimony during your divorce.
If you are filing a Joint Petition for Divorce, you and your spouse can make a written Separation Agreement that says how matters relating to the end of your marriage will be handled. The agreement should deal with custody of children, visits, support of children, property division (including alimony and pensions).
After Your Divorce – New Request
If you are already divorced and your original divorce did not mention alimony, you will file a Complaint for Alimony. This is a form that you will need to write yourself, but the Law Libraries have many sample forms to help you.
The judge will decide on what is fair the same way he or she would if you were just getting divorced.
After Your Divorce- Changing Alimony
If you are already divorced, and your original divorce mentioned alimony, even if the decision was to not give alimony to you, you will need to follow the procedure for changing your alimony. See Changing Your Alimony for information.
How does a judge decide whether or not to award alimony or how much it should be?
Judges look at the following when deciding whether and how much alimony to award:
- the length of the marriage
- age of the parties
- health of the parties
- income, employment and employability of both parties, including employability through reasonable diligence and additional training, if necessary
- economic and non-economic contribution of both parties to the marriage
- marital lifestyle
- ability of each party to maintain the marital lifestyle
- lost economic opportunity as a result of the marriage, and
- other factors the court considers relevant and material.
Except for reimbursement alimony or unusual circumstances, the amount of alimony should generally not be more than the receiving spouse’s need or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the parties' gross incomes established at the time of the order being issued.
What counts as “gross income” is the list given in the Child Support Guidelines. The court will not count as income:
- capital gains income and dividend and interest income which come from assets that you have already fairly divided
- gross income which the court has already considered for setting a child support order.
If the judge awards “general term alimony” or “rehabilitative alimony,” he may decide not to follow the limits for how long you should pay alimony or how much it should be, if there are good reasons to do so. Reasons include:
- advanced age; chronic illness; or unusual health circumstances of either party;
- tax considerations applicable to the parties;
- whether the spouse who is paying alimony is providing health insurance and the cost of health insurance for the ex-spouse;
- whether the spouse who is paying has been ordered to secure life insurance for the benefit of the ex-spouse and the cost of such insurance;
- sources and amounts of unearned income, including capital gains, interest and dividends, annuity and investment income from assets that were not allocated in the parties divorce;
- living together for a long time before marriage and sharing money during that time, or living apart before the divorce for a long time, each of which the court may consider in determining the length of the marriage;
- a spouse’s inability to support him or herself because of physical or mental abuse by the ex-spouse
- a spouse’s inability to support him or herself because he lacks property, maintenance or employment opportunity; and
- any other factor that the court thinks is relevant and material and includes in a written explanation.
If the spouse who is paying alimony remarries, the new spouse’s income will not be considered by a judge who is deciding whether to increase the alimony.
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