One of the most complex parts of a divorce case is whether there will be alimony paid from one spouse to the other, and if so, how much will it be, and for how long?

Most initial consultations involve this question. The answer is not so simple.

Alimony has its basis in public policy and common law, but is a statutory creation—it is a law that was created by our legislature. Husbands and wives are supposed to be treated equally under the law. The statute (law) requires a Court to “consider, but not be limited to, the following factors” in awarding alimony:

  • The actual need and ability of the parties to pay;
  • The duration of the marriage;
  • The age, physical and emotional health of the parties;
  • The standard of living established in the marriage and the likelihood that each party can maintain a reasonably comparable standard of living;
  • The earning capacities, educational levels, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
  • The length of absence from the job market and custodial responsibilities for children of the party seeking maintenance;
  • The time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment, the availability of the training and employment, and the opportunity for future acquisitions of capital assets and income;
  • The history of the financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage by each party including contributions to the care and education of the children and interruption of personal careers or educational opportunities;
  • The equitable distribution of property ordered and any payouts on equitable distribution, directly or indirectly, out of current income, to the extent this consideration is reasonable, just and fair;
  • Any other factor which the Court may deem relevant and fair

This alimony statute is gender-neutral. Most of the conflict in figuring out an acceptable alimony settlement circles around statutory factor #4, above. Each party has the right to a “reasonably comparable lifestyle” after the divorce is over. “Lifestyle” means standard of living. During the case, before it can be determined what is a “reasonably comparable standard of living” what must be figured out is “what is the standard of living of the spouses?”. This is determined in one of two ways; either through detailed testimony of how you lived during the marriage or through documentation filed during the divorce which reveals how much it costs to live in a certain manner. This includes the type of house one lives in, the cars one drives, the type and amount of vacations, taken—you get the point.

The alimony statute contains nine items to be considered, and all should be considered equally. Again, alimony has two components—amount and duration. The good news is that very few divorce cases go to trial. This means that determining an alimony settlement that each party finds acceptable is absolutely manageable—but, it takes a commitment to settle the case through open-mindedness, and a willingness to take emotions out of the settlement process. 

If alimony cannot be settled by agreement, and the case has to go to trial, Claire Scully is armed with the experience, the intellect and the drive to get you what you deserve.  

Decades of Experience

With decades of experience in family law, Claire Scully is well-equipped to handle any child support questions and unique situations you may have.