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How the court decides on alimony

Learn about the criteria judges may use to decide whether and how much alimony to award.

How is alimony decided?

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 effort 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
  • Other factors the court considers relevant

How much alimony will be paid?

Except for reimbursement alimony or unusual circumstances, the amount of alimony should generally not be more than the receiving spouse’s need or 30–35 percent of the difference between the parties' gross incomes established at the time the order is 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,” they 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 the insurance
  • Sources and amounts of unearned income, including capital gains, interest and dividends, annuity, and investment income from assets that weren’t assigned 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 themself because of physical or mental abuse by the ex-spouse
  • A spouse’s inability to support themself because they don’t have property, maintenance or employment opportunity
  • Any other factor the court thinks is relevant and includes in a written explanation

If the spouse who’s paying alimony remarries, the new spouse’s income won’t be considered by a judge who’s deciding whether to increase the alimony.