Alimony 101 – The Basics

Divorce Attorney

When a couple divorces, there are a million details to figure out. Who gets what property? Who gets the kids and for how long (if there are children involved)? There is also the added detail of determining alimony. If this is the first divorce for both you and your spouse, there may be things you haven’t thought of regarding alimony. In this post, we’ll explain the basics of what alimony is and how the amount is determined. 

What is alimony?

Alimony is another term for spousal support required after a divorce. This is the amount of money agreed upon that one spouse will pay to help support the other spouse. It can be determined in a number of different ways, but the main benefit is to help the spouse with a lower financial situation survive on their own after the divorce. 

When in a marriage, your finances are combined. In some cases, one spouse relies heavily upon the salary of the other spouse. This could be for a number of different reasons. For example, the wife could have left her career to stay at home and raise the children. She should not be penalized financially in a divorce for making that sacrifice. Alimony allows the wife to continue to live the standard of life she is used to while she either tries to develop any additional skills needed to get back in the workforce, or work her way up to the salary she would have been at if she had not taken that time off. 

How do you know how much alimony to pay?

In alimony cases, the court have very broad guidelines when determining how much you would need to pay. Many times it is based solely on the highest income, but there are other factors to consider when determining the amount. 

First, how long have you been married? The longer you’ve been married, the more alimony you are required to pay. How long will it take for the spouse with the lesser income to get the education and training needed to become financially independent? What was your standard of living through your marriage? Were you living in a large house in an affluent neighborhood, or were you living in a modest apartment? And finally the court will take into account how much the higher earning spouse needs to support him or herself before supporting their spouse. 

While it may seem unfair to the spouse who is more financially well off, alimony is not supposed to be a forever deal. The purpose is to help the other spouse get back on their feet, so generally there is a time limit. Alimony can also be terminated if the spouse receiving the alimony gets remarried. 

Alimony can be pretty straightforward. And while it’s not as tightly enforced compared to something like child support, it is a legally binding agreement, one you can take back to court if your spouse is not paying. If you are going through a divorce, it’s important to know everything you are entitled to – including alimony / spousal support with the help of a divorce lawyer in Bloomington, IL

Thanks to Pioletti, Pioletti & Nichols for their insight into family law and alimony after divorce.