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How long does one spouse pay alimony to another?

Many Alabama married couples are made up of spouses with different jobs and incomes. When these spouses get divorced, the disparity in income between spouses can trigger an award of alimony in favor of one spouse. Yet, current laws around the country are impacting the availability of alimony in certain cases.

Typically, alimony is rehabilitative, meaning it is geared toward allowing one spouse to receive payments while that spouse receives training and becomes self-supporting. For instance, if one spouse stayed at home with the kids for years of marriage, that spouse may not be immediately able to enter the labor market. Accordingly, the court might award spousal support to that spouse, paid by the other, while the recipient spouse gets education or training necessary to earn income on his or her own.

There are more permanent forms of spousal support available, however, depending upon the circumstances of a particular marriage. Yet, these laws could change if recent states’ laws take hold across the country.

One state, for instance, recently passed legislation that is awaiting the governor’s signature, which would cap the amount of alimony that could be paid to a former spouse, based on the recipient’s salary. The law would also preclude monthly payments from lasting for more than half the length of the marriage.

Another state also capped the amount of alimony that can be paid. Notably, while a spouse could still be awarded permanent support, there could be an alimony modification if the circumstances change.

It remains to be seen whether laws like these will spread to other states, and whether alimony will become more difficult to receive. At a minimum, the laws reflect that different states have different laws pertaining to alimony, and therefore it is vital to work with a qualified attorney to determine the law in a particular state when a spouse gets divorced.

Source: Fox Business, “Florida bill would limit spousal support, will the trend spread?,” Kate Rogers, April 24, 2013