Some people mistakenly believe that there is a formula that judges apply to determine how long a dependent spouse is entitled to receive alimony. Occasionally, clients report that they have heard that judges award alimony for a period of time that correlates to a number of years of the marriage. One belief is that judges award alimony for a period of time that is equal to one-half the number of the years of the marriage. For example, under this supposition, if the parties were married for 16 years, then the dependent spouse would be entitled to receive alimony for a period of eight years. While this may occur, because there is no formula for alimony and the amount and duration of alimony is based on a non-exhaustive list of sixteen factors and any other relevant factor, it is very difficult to predict the amount of alimony and duration a court may award. The amount, manner of payment, and duration of alimony are completely within a judge’s sound discretion and are determined on a case-by-case basis. Thus, there is no way to reliably predict how long a judge may award alimony to a dependent spouse.
Trends in alimony awards have changed considerably over recent decades as more women have joined the workforce, earned college degrees, and developed skills that have advanced their ability to be self-supporting. Courts often want to hear if the dependent spouse is seeking employment even though she or he may be seeking alimony.
Some factors that may support a longer-term alimony award include the following:
- The physical and mental health of the dependent spouse. A dependent spouse who has significant health problems or who is disabled may be in need of a longer-term alimony award.
- The age of the dependent spouse. Employment opportunities may be limited for an older spouse or they may have more difficulty acquiring new job skills.
- Marital misconduct on the part of the supporting spouse.
- A significant disparity between the income and income earning ability of the parties.
Regardless of whether you are awarded alimony, any alimony awarded s subject to termination upon the first of the following to occur: (1) the death of either spouse; (2) the remarriage of the dependent spouse; or (3) the dependent spouse’s cohabitation.