There is no minimum length which a marriage must last in order to be eligible for alimony. However, the longer you are married, the longer you will continue to receive payments. In most cases, if the marriage lasts for under 10 years, then the maximum length the alimony payments will last will be half of the length of the marriage. If a marriage is longer than 10 years, alimony could theoretically continue indefinitely.

What Is the Purpose of Alimony?

The purpose of alimony is to keep a dependent spouse from significant financial harm as the result of a divorce. While many marriages involve a multi-income household, there are also many that have a primary income earner and one spouse who is largely dependent upon the income of the other. 

Alimony is intended so that the dependent spouse can maintain their marital lifestyle until they are able to support themselves on their own. After the dissolution of a lengthy marriage that lasted for decades, a dependent spouse is often unable to rejoin the workforce in a way that can lead to meaningful income. Inexperience and advancements since they last worked tend to leave them unqualified.

That’s why the end of long-term marriages don’t have any fixed end date for alimony. If the dependent spouse is never able to find meaningful employment and doesn’t remarry, they may potentially rely upon alimony for the rest of their lives.

How Is Alimony Calculated?

Many factors go into calculating alimony during a divorce. While it is often one of the more straightforward aspects of divorce proceedings, that is merely by comparison. No part of divorce is plain and simple. Determining alimony is just about as close as it gets.

Some of the things that go into determining alimony amounts are:

  • Custody and child support
  • Tax laws
  • Other expenses
  • The marital standard of living

Custody and Child Support

Having children with the person you are divorcing can have a big impact on the amount you could receive through alimony. Before alimony payments are determined, child support must first be decided upon. Before child support can be settled, custody needs to be awarded. Because of this, alimony is not determined until a late stage of divorce proceedings.

Since alimony is meant to make up the difference in maintaining your marital lifestyle, it is impossible to determine what the amount will be until child support payments have been factored in and deducted from the lifestyle cost.

Tax Laws

Another important factor when it comes to alimony is the associated tax laws. California alimony laws are related to most cases of divorce. Tax laws can be very complex and are difficult to calculate on your own. Hiring a qualified divorce attorney with experience in navigating through all the rules, regulations, and calculations, is essential to providing you with the peace of mind that you will know how tax laws impact your alimony payments. 

Other Expenses

Before determining alimony, all other expenses associated with your divorce must be decided. You must figure out what you are doing with all of your shared assets, especially the higher value items. There are also sometimes ongoing expenses to be taken into consideration, like in a case where a spouse moves out of the family home but continues to pay the mortgage so that the family can continue to live there.

One spouse paying the other’s continuing medical bills is another ongoing expense that could deeply impact the amount paid in alimony.

The Marital Standard of Living

Since the objective of maintaining the marital standard of living is the primary reason for alimony payments, changes to income that occur after the separation don’t typically have an impact on alimony payments.

When the paying spouse has an increase in income, which occurs after separation, but before the divorce is finalized, the extra money is unlikely to factor into how much they will pay for alimony. After all, the payments are meant to meet the marital standard of living, not exceed it.

However, there are exceptions to this. When the income that the paying spouse made before the raise is not enough to provide for payment amounts that meet the standard of living, then this extra money may be factored in to make up the difference.

This happens when extra expenses, such as separate living spaces, weigh too heavily upon the finances of the paying spouse to be able to afford to meet the standard of living prior to the raise.

Other Factors

Many other factors can come into play when determining the length of time that alimony will last and the size of payments. These include:

  • The marketable skills of the dependant spouse along with the current job market
  • The time and cost to build marketable skills to return to the workforce
  • The length of time away from the workforce and the impact that had on earning potential
  • The level of support given by one spouse to the others education or career advancement
  • Any debts and assets for either spouse
  • The ability of a custodial parent to find work while still providing primary care for the children
  • The age and health of both spouses

Changes to an Alimony Agreement

Alimony agreements are rarely set in stone. Most of the time, there are various factors that can come into play and cause a change to the original agreement. Sometimes these changes are made upon a joint agreement between both spouses, while at other times they will be made through a decision of the court. Changes in one or both spouses’ financial situation are the most common reasons for a change to an alimony agreement.

Some occurrences are built into the original alimony agreement and result in the immediate termination of alimony payments. The most common change that results in premature termination of the alimony agreement is when the dependent spouse gets remarried.

When trying to calculate what alimony payments may be in your case, don’t rely upon an online alimony payment calculator. These payments are too nuanced to be properly calculated in this fashion. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to provide you with a much more accurate estimate after carefully reviewing your case. Even that, though, will not be 100% accurate, and you will need to wait for a judge’s final decision.