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How long does an alimony order last?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | Divorce |

Spousal support, commonly known as alimony, consists of payments from one ex-spouse to the other to help offset their economic disadvantage after their divorce. This is not a feature in every divorce settlement, but it can be necessary in cases involving one ex-spouse who is wealthier than the other.

In some cases, a court will order spousal support. In others, the parties agree to spousal support on their own. There are two major categories of court-ordered spousal support: temporary and permanent.

Temporary support

Temporary support is meant to provide income for an economically disadvantaged spouse before the divorce has been finalized. It is relatively common, particularly in cases involving one spouse who earns significantly more than the other.

For example, in a case where one spouse earned all the couple’s income, a separation can leave the other spouse with no income at all. Temporary support provides that spouse with income to meet their immediate needs until the division of property and other aspects of the divorce have been finalized.

A disadvantaged spouse can request temporary support as soon as either party has filed for divorce. If the parties cannot agree on an amount, the court will decide how much temporary support is appropriate based on the payer’s ability to pay and the payee’s needs.

Permanent support

Permanent support refers to spousal support payments after the divorce is finalized. It is not necessarily permanent, and therefore it may be more appropriate to call it long-term support.

This type of support is not as common as temporary support, but it is more likely in cases involving a marriage of long duration in which one spouse has much greater income than the other.

The parties can agree on long-term support on their own, or a judge can decide. If the marriage lasted less than 10 years, the spousal support order lasts half the duration of the marriage; if the marriage lasted more than 10 years, the judge has more discretion in deciding how long the order will last.

Generally, support lasts until:

  • A date agreed upon by the parties. The court must approve this agreement.
  • A date ordered by the court.
  • The receiving spouse gets married again.
  • The death of either spouse.

When deciding these matters, judges look at a long list of factors, including the incomes and assets of both parties, their standard of living while married and their current earning capacity.


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