If you know that you have an impending divorce, you are likely preoccupied with preparing yourself – both emotionally and financially – to start your new post-divorce life. If you were the lower earning spouse – or if you chose to stay home with your children rather than work during your marriage – then you might receive alimony payments as part of your final divorce decree. As part of your planning, it can be helpful to have even a rough estimate of how long you can expect these alimony payments to last.
While there is no sure way to get a completely accurate estimate before the divorce process concludes, there are a few guiding principles that can help you to get a rough idea of how long you will likely be able to count on alimony.
If a judge orders permanent (or long-term) alimony, then you might receive alimony payments indefinitely, or until you remarry or cohabitate with a steady partner. It’s important to note that lifelong alimony is extremely rare, and you most likely will not receive it unless your circumstances are exceptional.
This type of alimony is much more common when one spouse has a drastically lower earning capacity than the other. Its purpose is to provide the lower-earning spouse with support while they work towards achieving self-sufficiency.
If you forewent higher education or developing work experience in order to tend to household needs or childrearing, then rehabilitative alimony can meet your needs while you return to school or start building up your resume again. The length of a rehabilitative alimony award typically depends upon the length of the marriage, among other factors.
If your spouse’s higher earning capacity is the direct result of you having worked to put them through higher education, then the court may decide that justice demands that your spouse repay you what you invested in their education.
Choosing to stay at home to raise your children instead of working is a noble task, one that is arguably much more important than a career. Alimony awards exist to ensure that you do not have to suffer adverse consequences for having made that choice, and that you will have the opportunity to regain your financial self-sufficiency.