The alimony meaning used today refers to a financial and legal obligation ordered of one spouse during and after a divorce. Also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, it is a sum of money that the spouse must pay to the other each month as the divorce case is being decided in court and after a judgment has been rendered by the family court judge.
This obligation is typically imposed on the spouse who earns the highest income and has the most assets at his or her disposal. Divorce alimony is awarded to the spouse who earns less, has foregone pursuing a career during the marriage, or has been awarded custody of the couple’s minor children. In some instances, it also may be awarded to the spouse who has been awarded the marital home.
Alimony is not intended to be a punishment inflicted on one spouse for bad behavior or for leaving the marriage. Likewise, it is not given as a reward for surviving a bad marriage or for filing for divorce.
Instead, alimony is awarded as a compensation for the spouse who earns a lower income and needs assistance maintaining the household’s lifestyle or gaining independence after the marriage. The amount and length for which alimony must be paid can depend on a wide array of factors, such as:
- length of the marriage
- income of both spouses
- lifestyle to which the minor children and awarded spouse is accustomed
- child support order amount
Most family court judges set the amount of alimony at ¼ to 1/3 of the higher earning spouse’s monthly income.
Likewise, the question of how long does alimony last also comes into play in family court. Many judges order that the amount is paid for a term that should not exceed half of the term of the couple’s marriage. For example, if a couple was married 10 years, the alimony should be paid for a minimum of five years.
However, if the lower earning spouse has the ability to regain independence after the marriage sooner, the judge may order the divorce alimony to be paid for a short term or transitional period of two to three years. Shorter terms may also be used if the couple was married less than two years or are seeking an annulment rather than a divorce. Both spouses have the right to request changes to the alimony order even after the family court judge has rendered a decision.
Alternatively, when considering the question of what is alimony, you also may wonder what is palimony. Palimony is the financial and legal obligation of one lover to compensate the other in a romantic partnership. If a couple has been together for several years but never married, one person in the relationship may have just cause to pursue compensation from the other person. The amount of the palimony awarded to the person seeking it is determined similarly to the amount used when determining alimony meaning and amounts today.
How to File for Alimony
If you want or need to request alimony as part of your divorce settlement, it is important that you learn the process required by the family court in which you plan to file your case. You have the right to represent yourself in your divorce. However, given the complexity of many states’ divorce laws, you may find it wiser to retain legal counsel before filing your divorce case and making the official request for alimony.
When you retain a family law attorney, you get legal counsel who is well-versed in your state’s divorce laws and also can address the question of how does alimony work in your particular situation. In fact, divorce lawyers have access to legal resources like alimony calculators or formulas not typically available to lawyers who practice in other areas of law. When you want to get the full amount of spousal support to which you are entitled, you should consider hiring a family law attorney to take your case and to use the resources available to him or her when representing you in court.
However, you may not know how to find divorce lawyers in your area who are skilled at handling annulment or complex divorce cases like yours. You can retain the best counsel available to you by using some simple strategies to find and vet family lawyers in your area.
Second, you may want to research online to find attorneys who practice in this area of family law in your city or state. Using the online reviews of these attorneys, you can make up a list of lawyers whom you want to meet with and interview. This research can be critical in helping you find a lawyer who can get you the full amount of support you need to continue with your life after your marriage is dissolved.
You should go into each initial consultation with the lawyers well prepared to ask questions and get the important information you need to feel confident in your choice of legal counsel. You have the right to determine how well an attorney might represent you and how earnest that person will be in representing your best interests in court.
Some of the key questions that you should ask any divorce attorney with whom you meet include:
- How long have you practiced family or divorce law?
- How will you represent me and my best interests throughout the case?
- What is your win record in court?
- Can you tell me more about the state’s definition of what is alimony as it pertains to my case?
- How does alimony work if I already have a job or assets like savings accounts or investments?
- How long does alimony last in cases like mine?
You also want to find out how much the attorney charges per hour and what the retainer fee is. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be able to seek compensation for these costs from your spouse.
Another important aspect of finding and retaining good legal counsel to take your divorce case involves researching the attorney’s disciplinary record in and out of court. You do not want to retain a lawyer who has a questionable history with the local courts or who has been censured or disciplined by local family court judges.
You can find attorneys’ disciplinary records on file with your local state bar association. You can also make a formal request of the record from the courthouse at which you plan to file your case.
Lawyers who have less the stellar records with the courts or judges are less likely to garner favor with any judge that presides over these attorneys’ cases. You want a lawyer who has a clean record and a good rapport with the family court system in your area.
Whether you are the petitioner or the defendant in your divorce case, you may have the right to request alimony from your spouse. Requesting this monetary spousal support requires that you follow a precise process in court. You can navigate it successfully and achieve the outcome you want or need to go on with your life by retaining competent legal representation to handle your case in and out of the courtroom.
Ending a marriage can be a difficult and traumatic experience for anyone. Even so, people may find it easier to move on after their marriage is dissolved if they are awarded spousal support or alimony.
Alimony is a financial award typically given to the spouse who earns an income that is lower than that of the other spouse. It also may be given to spouses who have not worked during the marriage or are given primary custody of the couple’s minor children.
The amount of alimony that spouses are awarded varies from state to state. Family courts in each state use precise formulas to ensure that the spouse who is paying the amount is not financially compromised. At the same time; however, the formula ensures that the person receiving the amount is awarded enough money to rebuild his or her life and to maintain the lifestyle to which he or she is accustomed.
While the court uses a set formula to determine the amount, it may be challenged by either spouse who feels that the amount is too little or too much. Divorce cases involving these payments can be contentious and complicated in nature.
To avoid being awarded an amount that is unfair or not being awarded anything at all, people in such situations are encouraged to retain an attorney to represent them. Attorneys who practice divorce or family law are typically well-versed in the formulas used to determine the amount of support or maintenance. They can pursue the right support amount and ensure that their clients have enough on which to rebuild their lives after the divorce is granted as well as maintain a lifestyle to which they or their minor children have become accustomed during the marriage.