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Understand the Purpose and Types of Alimony


Alimony seems to be mentioned hand in hand with the word divorce. Although child support may appear daunting as well, there is at least the feeling that the money is going towards support of the minor child. Alimony however, to many, seems superfluous, a payoff to an ex that he or she doesn’t need or deserve. Part of that misconception may be because of lack of understanding the basics of alimony.

Alimony Basics

Alimony is simply money that is intended to allow the receiving party to live in the manner that he/she was accustomed to during the marriage. In some ways, this itself is misleading, because often even with alimony payments, both parties must find ways to cut expenses in order to survive.

The prospect of paying alimony can seem frightening to divorcees because of its subjectivity. Child support has a numeric formula that people can plug incomes into and get a rough idea what a child support payment will be. But alimony has no such thing, and is often left to the discretion of the judge.

Factors Considered in Alimony Decisions

One factor that plays into how much alimony is paid is the income of the parties–or rather, the income disparity. Where the disparity is large, the chance of paying some alimony is greater.

The other factor is the length of the marriage; shorter marriages are less likely to have an alimony award, and if they do, it is more likely to be a temporary or lump sum alimony award.

Types of Alimony

Alimony doesn’t have a specific purpose–the receiving party can use it for however he or she wants (and there is no bias based on whether you are the husband or wife, contrary to popular opinion). However, there are overriding goals of certain kinds of alimony.

For example, rehabilitative alimony is awarded for a closed period of time, and intended to allow the receiving party to re-establish him or herself financially.

Lump sum alimony is a one-time payment, and can often be made by adjusting the division of property in the marriage.

Permanent alimony is only for long-term marriages, usually around 15-17 years. Permanent alimony is possible, albeit difficult to obtain, in shorter marriages. It is awarded where the receiving party is unlikely to be able to get him or herself back on her feet, perhaps because of age, disability, or simply having to rear the children for an extended period of time.

Termination of Alimony

Almost every kind of alimony will terminate when and if the other spouse remarries or enters into a “supportive relationship.” Often, a spouse cohabitating with another partner will terminate alimony.

Because permanent alimony is by definition permanent, if something occurs that causes the cessation of payments like a recipient’s remarriage, the party seeking to stop paying must petition a court before payments cease.

Do you have questions about what to expect in an upcoming divorce? Contact Tampa family law attorneys at The Pawlowski//Mastrilli Law Group for help.

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