How Alimony Is Determined

If you are looking to divorce your partner and you are not financially stable, you probably think that alimony will eliminate this hurdle. However, alimony is not automatically given. In most jurisdictions, alimony is decided by the judge. Read on to learn the grounds under which alimony is given.

One-Income Families

Alimony aims at correcting the injustice of one spouse living affluently and another languishing in poverty after a divorce. Most judges consider the couple's standard of living while they were married to determine whether to grant alimony to one of the spouses. For example, if your marital lifestyle amounted to $100,000 annually and your spouse contributed all the money, they might be asked to pay alimony worth $50,000 annually. This ensures that each spouse has a similar lifestyle after divorce.

Two-Income Families

When your income was not the sole support of your family, the court will review your spouse's income. If you and your spouse enjoyed a lifestyle worth $100,000 annually, with your spouse earning $70,000 annually and your income amounting to $30,000 annually, the judge might ask your spouse to pay alimony worth $20,000 annually so that you both live on $50,000 annually.

Property Distribution

Many courts distribute marital assets before dealing with alimony. If you, as the under-earning spouse, are allocated property that generates income, like rental property, the proceeds of this asset will be added to your income. The same happens to your spouse's share of the property. This ensures that you are allocated a fair share of property that may eliminate the need for alimony.

Marital Misconduct

In some jurisdictions, marital misconduct is taken into account when deciding on alimony. If you allege issues of infidelity and abandonment as grounds for divorce and can prove these grounds, the court might grant you alimony. For example, some states will ask a deserting or adulterous spouse to pay alimony. This acts as punitive damages so that you do not suffer from less income due to your spouse's actions.


Courts award alimony for a duration that is enough for the under-earning spouse to be able to stand on their own after the divorce. However, this rule does not apply in long-term marriages in which one of the spouses has devoted their life to the home the couple previously shared and now cannot enjoy the life they were used to. Therefore, alimony, in this case, is given based on a percentage of the length of your marriage. For instance, for a 10-year marriage, you may receive alimony for 50 percent of the duration; that is, five years.

For further information about these complex decisions, consult a lawyer.