One party to a dissolved marriage may suffer financially as a result of divorce. In such a case, the court granting the divorce decree may award alimony to that party. The type of alimony can be permanent or temporary. The length of time a party must pay alimony often depends on the length of the marriage.
A court normally awards alimony as a part of a couple's divorce decree when one party suffers economic disparity as a result of being in the marriage. Economic disparity can occur in a situation where a husband makes enough money to allow the wife to stay home and be a homemaker. As a result, the wife has no incentive to further her education or earning power. When children come into the picture, the wife no longer has the time to work or further her education while she stays home with her children.
Temporary or Permanent
A court may award permanent alimony. One party pays permanent alimony to the other party for maintenance and support if the other party does not have the resources or ability to do so himself. Alternately, a court may award rehabilitative alimony to a spouse who does not have the resources or ability to support himself at the time of the dissolution of the marriage. The recipient does have the time and ability to enter the workforce and become self-sustaining in the future.
In the past, courts awarded alimony only to women. Now, women make up more of the work force, and they can receive property when a divorce occurs. As a result, some women find themselves on equal or even higher footing than their male counterparts when going through divorce. In awarding alimony, a court considers several factors, none of which is gender. These factors include: each party's ability to obtain employment; each party's future earning capacity; one party's ability to pay alimony to the other party; which party has custody of any minor children; the length of the marriage; and then length of time one party needs financial support from the other party.
Average Duration of Alimony
In short and medium-length marriages, courts generally award alimony for a duration of one-half to one-third the length of the marriage. For marriages of 20 years or more, a court may award permanent alimony, depending on the age of the spouse receiving alimony. For example, Arizona law provides that, for a marriage that lasted at least 20 years, the spouse receiving alimony can receive permanent alimony if the spouse is over age 50. The recipient of alimony receives alimony payments as long as the spouse has a need for support. Therefore, when the alimony recipient remarries or cohabits, the spouse's alimony payments can be discontinued.