Do I qualify for alimony?

Posted on Jul 26, 2013 by Katie Carter

How do you know whether you’ll qualify to receive alimony? Actually, these days, alimony is more commonly referred to as spousal support. Why? Well, mostly, because spousal support is considered a more “gender neutral” term. It used to be that it was always the women who received alimony from their ex-husbands; these days, a husband or a wife can ask for alimony after divorce, provided that he or she meets certain specific criteria.

Like anything else, the analysis is driven by numbers. Specifically, how much do you earn and how much does he earn? There has to be a pretty significant discrepancy, and only the spouse who earns less could qualify for spousal support. Even if you meet all the other qualifications to receive spousal support, if you earn more than your husband, you won’t get it. On the other hand, just because there is a discrepancy in income doesn’t automatically mean that you’re entitled to receive support—you’ll still have to look at other important details of your marriage.

What else will the court consider? Well, the court will probably be looking at things like, (1) whether one of you sacrificed your career to take care of the family, (2) whether you have the job training to be competitive in the current job market, and (3) what decisions you made as co-parents regarding the care and upbringing of your children (for example, did you always plan to homeschool them yourself?) These considerations are unique and case-specific, and can help give you an idea of whether you’d qualify to receive spousal support.

Keep in mind, too, that there are different types of alimony. Just because you won’t qualify to receive permanent spousal support (that is, support until one of you dies, or until the recipient spouse remarries or lives with another romantic partner for more than a year) doesn’t mean you won’t get support at all. In many cases, you can be creative about spousal support. It’s possible to get rehabilitative support until you can get back on your feet. Sometimes, that can include support while you go back to school, receive technical training, or go through a re-certification process of some kind. Remember: judges really like to see you making efforts to be self-supporting, if possible.

Your spousal support award will likely be higher if you, for some reason, are not employable or are otherwise unable to find profitable work. Your spousal support award will likely be lower if you find a good job or have a high possibility of profitable employment. Don’t let the possibility of a lower award deter you, though, from finding stable, long-term employment. The gains that you receive from the job are often far higher than what you could possibly expect to receive from spousal support.