The previous generations’ divorces often involved a husband breadwinner and a housewife who did not have a job outside the home. It meant that the husband would usually need to pay both child support to the wife who often had custody (or was the custodial parent) and alimony. Child support was supposed to only go toward paying the expenses of raising the child as a minor. Alimony, on the other hand, is a tool for limiting the unfair economic effect of divorce. This allowed the non-wage earner to maintain a lifestyle.
The world is now a different place where both parents often actively coparent and work outside the home, even when one spouse may earn much more than the other. While the state mandates how much child support to pay using a formula, the possibility and amount of alimony have fewer restraints. So, the couple or the judge (if the couple litigates) has discretion over the amount and for how long – spouses may have to go back to work to support themselves if they can do so. There may also be a period when the spouse gets alimony to focus on raising the children or attain employable skills before reentering the workforce. However, some couples who divorce may still go the traditional full ongoing support route.
How are alimony amounts determined?
The details of each divorce are different, but some factors to weigh include:
- The spouse’s physical and mental health or age
- The couple’s living standard
- The length of the marriage
- The payer’s ability to pay alimony and still support themselves and their children
- The spouse’s employment background
- The amount of time needed to update their employment skillset
Most awards end if the spouse who receives alimony remarries. If the breadwinner dies while paying alimony, the support may continue using the insurance proceeds or the estate’s assets.
Disputes may arise
The spouses will ideally come to a quick consensus, but this is often not the case in reality. They will need to negotiate alimony as part of the divorce and the division of assets. There may also be major shifts in one or both spouses’ income levels that prompt changes to the agreement. One spouse cannot arbitrarily determine changes to alimony as outlined by a legal contract. Those who stop paying alimony could face civil or criminal charges.