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What Do the Courts Look at When Determining Alimony?

Financial distress is one of the scariest parts of divorce for many people who are facing the end of a marriage. As assets are examined and evaluated during divorce proceedings, the issue of alimony commonly comes to the forefront of the discussions.

Although there is no magic formula that determines exactly how much money will be involved when it comes to alimony, there are certain guidelines the courts will likely take into consideration.

What is Alimony?

Alimony may also be referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance. It's intended to help a spouse who does not currently earn money, or who earns less money than the other spouse, keep up a reasonably fair lifestyle. In many instances, one spouse has foregone a professional career while staying at home with the family.

In this instance, spousal support may be awarded to the non-income-earner so he or she may establish independent housing and develop job skills. In cases where the couple enjoyed a two-income household, the individual who earned a lower salary may need financial assistance from the other spouse to maintain his or her standard of living.

How is Alimony Determined?

Spousal maintenance is usually determined in one of two ways:

  1. You and your spouse come to an agreement regarding fair and equitable payments with the assistance of your attorneys.
  2. The courts decide the amount one spouse must pay to the other.

If the divorcing parties are able to come to a mutually-agreed-upon alimony settlement without the assistance of the courts, the process may go more quickly.

What Factors are Considered During Alimony Assessments?

Whether a person is presenting a claim for spousal maintenance or defending against such a claim, he or she will need evidence to support his or her side of the argument. The following are some pertinent pieces of information that may be used to determine the amount of alimony a person receives or is ordered to pay:

  • Payor's Income. Before the court decides how much money one spouse must pay the other, it will first analyze the financial situation of the paying party. The paying party must be able to meet his or her needs before being required to pay alimony.
  • Duration of the Marriage. Much like other aspects of divorce, spousal maintenance often incorporates the length of time the parties were married. This is a key component in the determination of payments.
  • Other Sources of Income. Employment income is not the only resource the courts will review. If the party requesting support has other sources of income, such as non-martial assets, stocks, and bonds, these items will likely be factored into the final decision.

If alimony is a concern in your divorce situation, it's best to speak with a divorce attorney as soon as possible. Whether you're concerned that you'll be left without enough money to sustain your lifestyle, or you're afraid the courts may order you to make substantial payments to your ex after the divorce is finalized, an experienced divorce attorney can help.

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