One of the first questions asked by many individuals considering filing for divorce is whether they would be obligated to pay, or entitled to receive, alimony.
Alimony, also referred to as maintenance or spousal support, is a payment made by one spouse to the other after the marriage has ended to help the former spouse cover living expenses. Alimony is usually different from, and may be in addition to, child support.
When deciding whether to award alimony, the court considers a variety of factors. These factors differ from state to state (and in some respects, from case to case). The information below outlines some questions the court may raise in deciding whether to award alimony.
Is there an income disparity?
One of the key factors considered by the court is the difference in income between the two spouses. If one spouse has substantially less income than the other, the court will usually consider some amount of alimony to overcome the disparity.
How long did the marriage last?
Courts look at how long the marriage lasted. If the marriage lasted only a few years, the court will assume that it is unlikely the spouse asking for alimony gave up much income or earning power and will refuse to award alimony.
Are there any special needs?
The court also will ask whether the spouse requesting alimony has special needs. For example, a mother who will be the custodian for a disabled child may need alimony to enable her to stay home and care for the child.
Has there been loss of a career?
The court will consider an award of alimony if one spouse has given up career opportunities to allow the other spouse’s career to progress. This situation commonly occurs when one spouse has left the workforce to care for the couple’s children. However, it can also come up if one spouse has given up a career, turned down a promotion, or accepted a lesser position so that the other spouse could accept a promotion or develop his or her own career.
An award of alimony is not always automatic, and a determination to award alimony is a complex decision that looks at many factors. Our attorneys can help you with this important element of the divorce proceedings. Smith Strong serves clients from Richmond to Williamsburg and is dedicated to helping you with your case. Call today: Richmond, (804) 325-1245 or Williamsburg, (757) 941-4298.