aThe court will look at several factors when trying to decide if an individual is entitled to alimony or not. Since the alimony laws and policy leave the final decision up to the family court, they try to follow guidelines that affect a marriage. Most of these factors are not laws, since there are multiple ways of a court can change the outcome of any alimony trial. Although no one can know for certain if they are going to be paying or awarded alimony, they can have a better idea of what might happen in court.
The longer that a marriage lasts, the better chance a spouse has of being awarded alimony. While there is no absolute definition of a long marriage, most states consider any marriage that lasts more than five to ten years a long one. If a couple is married a long time, the court generally thinks that a spouse has more of a right to alimony payments then one in a short marriage. A longer marriage implies that there was a stronger commitment on the part of both spouses, as well as a greater chance on having more combined assets.
Time of Separation:
While a couple is separated, a spouse may be entitled to temporary alimony. However, if their divorce proceedings take a long time, a judge may not want to award alimony to a spouse. The reasoning behind this is that a separation is supposed to give an individual time to get on their feet. If the separation had lasted a long time, whether due to delays in filing for divorce or other issues, the court may have expected a person to take steps toward financial independence. This may not be true of an older spouse. However, the court may have higher expectations of a younger spouse. If an individual waits to sue for alimony after a long separation, the judge will probably take that into account and hold it against that spouse.
Age is very important when determining the alimony rights of a spouse. Courts generally assume that older people will have a harder time getting into the workforce if they have not worked in a while. If the older spouse is working, the court may consider an upcoming retirement or illness as reasons for the spouse to be entitled to alimony. It also may be harder for that spouse to take care of themselves. An older spouse is less likely to be able to start over and achieve financial independence. The court will keep all these factors in mind when determining alimony for an older spouse. Their age alone may entitle them to alimony, even if they do not fulfill the other requirements. However, it less likely for an older spouse to get alimony if it is a very short marriage. The courts consider anyone over the age of 55 to be an older spouse.
Income Level and Future Prospects:
When considering whether or not to award alimony payments, the court will look at the income level and future earning potential of each spouse. In today’s society, both women and men have the potential to be successful. In fact, a third of women, make as much, if not more than their husbands. When spouses have similar incomes, it will be very difficult for one spouse to prove they need alimony. The same rule applies if they both have the potential for future success. Judging one’s potential may include looking at the spouse’s education level, job experience and future job possibilities. If the court thinks that a spouse has the potential for success but needs more time to achieve it, they may decide that the spouse is a good candidate for rehabilitative alimony. If one spouse’s income and education are significantly different from the other’s, the judge may order that the wealthier spouse pay alimony.
Reasons for the Divorce:
This factor once made or broke a woman’s chance for receiving alimony. Although the courts still take this into account, it usually does not hold as much weight as some of the other requirements. There are times when it will factor heavily into a decision. It depends on the case. Some wealthier couples or individuals get prenuptial agreements before they marry. This is supposed to protect one’s assets in case of a divorce. There may be a clause in the prenuptial specifying that if the other party is to blame for the divorce, they will not be entitled to many financial assets including alimony. Usually, the spouse is accused of infidelity. However, prenuptial agreements have been overturned many times in court, when a spouse fought it.
Gender and Health:
A court is not allowed to deny or grant someone alimony because of gender. There are many men that qualify for alimony payments, but many of them do not take advantage of it because of the social stigma that surrounds women supporting men. Surveys on men who do try to take advantage of alimony laws, has shown that the courts do discriminate against males, even though this is not legally permitted. Gender discrimination is one alimony law that does not differ from state to state. It also cannot be interpreted by the court: they are simply not allowed to discriminate based on gender. Health is a different story. A spouse with health problems may be entitled to alimony if they can prove that their poor health will hinder future job opportunities. If they do not have a health condition at the time of divorce but develop one later, they can have the case reopened to seek alimony payments or higher payments.