Alimony Explained


Laws and practices concerning alimony have changed enormously over the past two decades. Much of this change is because so many women are working or employable and are no longer viewed as financially dependent on their husbands.


Alimony (spousal support) is designed to provide the spouse a reasonable standard of living and one as close as possible to the one she/he enjoyed during the marriage. Alimony, in some cases, is paid by the wife to the husband. Most commonly there is no award of alimony. Fewer than 20 percent of today's divorces include alimony. Even when alimony is awarded, it is usually not for a significant amount.


When will a court consider alimony?

        When it was a long marriage. A marriage of 2 to 3 years is not likely to require alimony.

        When one spouse spent nearly all his/her marital years at home raising the family.

        When a spouse must continue to remain at home to properly care for the children.

        When a spouse is ill, unemployable, or has no special skills.

        When one spouse contributed to the other's education and career opportunities.

        When one spouse has high earnings or earnings potential.


Alimony stops when the recipient spouse remarries. There may be other provisions for termination. For example, alimony may be provided for a specific number of years�usually until the youngest child reaches a certain age, or until the recipient spouse can complete an education or a training program to make her/him employable.


Related to alimony is the issue of continued health coverage for a spouse. This is a major problem for many divorcing couples, as a spouse may no longer be covered under the other spouse's insurance. Federal law now requires that employer-sponsored health plans must provide an employee's ex-spouse with continued health coverage at group rates for 3 years following a divorce.