Alimony is court-ordered support paid by one spouse to the other for a period of time after a divorce. Alimony is paid by a spouse who has the ability to pay to a spouse in need of support for a period of time. Only people who are divorcing or are divorced can ask for and receive alimony.
Who can ask for alimony?
Either you or your spouse, or both of you, can ask for alimony at the time of divorce. If the original divorce judgment didn’t mention alimony at all, you can file a complaint for alimony for the first time at any time after your divorce.
Alimony can be changed after a divorce through a process called a modification. See request to change your alimony for more information.
Types of alimony
There are 4 different types of alimony that may be awarded:
- General term alimony. Support paid regularly to an ex-spouse who is financially dependent on the former spouse. The length of time general term alimony is paid depends in part on the length of the marriage.
- Rehabilitative alimony. Support paid regularly to an ex-spouse who’s expected to be able to support themselves by a predicted time.
- Reimbursement alimony. Support paid regularly or one time after a marriage of no more than 5 years to make up for costs that the ex-spouse paid to help the paying spouse, such as such as enabling the spouse to complete an education or job training.
- Transitional alimony. Support paid regularly or one time after a marriage of no more than 5 years to help the spouse receiving the alimony to settle into a new lifestyle or location as a result of the divorce.
How long does alimony last?
How long general term alimony lasts usually corresponds with how long the marriage lasted.
- Marriages of 5 years or less — Alimony can’t be required for more than 50 percent of the number of months you were married. For example, if you were married for 60 months, you could be ordered to pay or receive alimony for up to 30 months.
- Marriages of 10 years or less — Alimony can’t be required for more than 60 percent of the number of months you were married.
- Marriages of 15 years or less — Alimony can’t be required for more than 70 percent of the number of months you were married.
- Marriages of 20 years or less — Alimony can’t be required for more than 80 percent of the number of months you were married.
- Marriages of more than 20 years — The court can award alimony for as long as the judge thinks is fair.
Alimony also normally stops if:
- Either spouse dies
- The spouse receiving the alimony gets married again. If you’re receiving alimony and begin living with a partner for at least 3 months, your alimony can also be reduced or stopped.
- The spouse paying the alimony reaches “full retirement age” (unless the judge orders something different).
Judges can choose to continue alimony for a longer period of time if there’s a good reason. If alimony is supposed to end, but you feel you need to receive alimony for longer, you can file a Complaint for Modification. The court may give you an extension if you have:
- A material change of circumstances after your alimony was decided
- Reasons for the extension that are supported by clear and convincing evidence