Divorce is obviously a difficult chapter in anyone’s life. In addition to sorting out personal matters, dealing with the financial fallout of divorce is often messy. Whether you are paying alimony or receiving alimony, understanding how long alimony lasts is a top priority. And the answer is that it depends on the details of your divorce, but it can last for a few months, several years or until the death of either partner.
As you untangle the finances of divorce, consider working with a financial advisor to make a financial plan for your new goals and priorities.
What Is Alimony?
When a marriage ends in divorce, alimony is one option on the table. Essentially, alimony is court-ordered financial support regularly paid to one former spouse to another.
Although it’s an option for divorcing spouses, it’s not very common. And it’s becoming rarer over time. According to Reuters, alimony payments were a result of 25% of divorce cases in the 1960s, but just 10% in 2015.
Typically, alimony is only an option if you relied on your spouse for financial support, don’t have access to the sufficient property to fund your needs, are unable to support yourself through work or are unable to support yourself through work due to caring for a child.
How Long Does Alimony Last?
The length of alimony varies widely based on the details of your divorce and the laws of your state. Depending on the situation, alimony payments could fall into one of these categories:
Temporary alimony: With this type of alimony, the funds could be required during the divorce proceedings. However, the payments will end when the divorce is finalized.
Permanent or long-term alimony: In this case, one former spouse would make alimony payments to the other until the receiving spouse dies, retires or remarries.
Rehabilitative alimony: Rehabilitative alimony has a set end date. The goal is to ensure one spouse has enough time to get back on their feet. With this most common type of modern alimony, you’ll know the end date when the divorce proceedings are finalized.
Reimbursement alimony: If one spouse made an investment into the other spouse’s business or education, reimbursement alimony can serve as repayment for their sacrifice. For example, if a couple divorces after a husband graduates college at the expense of his wife, he might be required to repay her investment in his future.
The timeline for alimony payments varies. But these timeframes should give you an idea of what kind of commitment the court may order.
What Factors Affect the Length of Alimony?
In addition to the type of alimony, there are several other factors that impact the length of this financial obligation. A few of the key factors include:
State laws. When getting a divorce, your location matters. For example, in the state of Florida, alimony payments cannot exceed the length of the marriage. But in other states, that might not be the case.
Length of the marriage. A longer marriage tends to garner longer alimony requirements than a shorter marriage. Most courts consider 20+ years a long marriage.
Employability. If one spouse was the primary breadwinner while the other was responsible for the home, that can impact alimony commits. For example, the breadwinner might need to support their former spouse while they acquire the skills they need to support themselves.
Parental roles. If one spouse is the primary caregiver for a child, that can impact the alimony payments. However, child support will also come into play.
Standard of living. The size the alimony payment will vary based on the standard of living that the former spouses enjoyed during the marriage. A higher level of spending often leads to a higher alimony commitment.
Fault. Some courts will consider why the marriage is ending. For example, if one spouse cheats on the other, that could impact the alimony payments.
Financial resources. What each party walks away with matters. If both parties walk away from the divorce with sufficient assets to support themselves, then alimony is usually not required.
Alimony payments can represent a significant portion of a divorcee’s budget. Whether or not alimony payments are required as part of a divorce settlement varies widely based on the individual situation. Additionally, the amount will vary based on the details of the divorce. In any case, it’s smart to create a plan for how these alimony payments will impact your finances.
Financial Tips for Marriage and Divorce
- If you’re going through a divorce, that’s a big shakeup for your finances. It might be time to enlist the help of a financial advisor as you work through the financial impacts. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
- Still in the early stages of marriage or unmarried? A prenuptial or post-nuptial agreement offers a way to protect your assets.
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