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How Is Alimony Calculated?

Alimony, now often known as spousal support or maintenance, is a payment made by one ex-spouse to the other to help them maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed while in the marriage. But how is alimony calculated?

If you and your spouse are unable to negotiate an alimony settlement, a judge will calculate the amount and duration of spousal support. Most states have their own alimony calculator or alimony guidelines for calculating spousal support. However, judges generally look at the following factors:

  • The length of the marriage
  • Each person's current salary and future earning potential
  • Each person's other income from sources such as interest, dividends and trusts
  • Whether one spouse contributed to the education and career advancement of the other during the marriage
  • Whether one spouse was a homemaker during the marriage
  • If the couple has children, whether the custodial parent's future earnings will be limited because of their parental responsibilities
  • The age of each spouse and whether either spouse has any physical, mental or emotional issues
  • Whether either party was at fault in the divorce
  • Whether there are other economic circumstances that seriously affect either spouse

After looking at these factors, the judge will decide whether either spouse is entitled to maintenance payments. The judge will also decide how much alimony a person is entitled to and the length of time during which alimony will be paid.

Different Types of Alimony

Years ago, alimony was traditionally permanent, or paid on an ongoing basis until a person died or remarried. Today, judges usually award other types of alimony. Lump sum alimony is a one-time payment. Temporary alimony is a periodic payment that lasts only a set period of time. Rehabilitative alimony is given to a spouse who is young and able to become self-supporting.

Most people assume that only women receive alimony, because traditionally men were the sole breadwinners. In fact, both men and women are entitled to spousal support. These days, however, alimony (whether paid to wives or husbands) is less common than it was several decades ago.

Your lawyer can advise you about average alimony calculations in your state, and how long you have to be married in order to get alimony.