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Some basic information about alimony determinations

Alimony is a payment from one former spouse to the other following a divorce. Traditionally, alimony is seen as being paid by the man to the woman, but a breakaway from traditional gender roles in marriage has made that notion outdated. Alimony might be required of either party in a divorce.

Alimony is different from child support, and it's not just "child support for adults." Usually, whether or not alimony is required and how much it should be is decided in a completely different manner than issues of child support are handled. Whereas child support is governed by a number of guidelines related to income in each state, alimony decisions tend to be more fluid and the courts are provided with some leeway in such matters.

While each state has its own laws on alimony, most do base those laws in part on the federal Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act. That act lays out some considerations for deciding whether alimony is appropriate, how much the payments should be and how long the individual should make those payments.

Courts usually look at a variety of factors, including the income and income potential of each spouse. If one spouse makes a substantial amount more and the other spouse has a limited income potential, then alimony could be likely. Other factors include the age and physical state of each spouse. If one spouse is going to undertake education so he or she can become self-sufficient in the future, then alimony might be required during that training period.

Courts might also look at factors such as how long the marriage lasted and what support was provided by each spouse during the marriage. If one spouse worked to put the other through medical school and they then ended up divorcing, that contribution might be considered. If you are facing a divorce and are concerned about alimony details, speak with an attorney to understand your rights and what actions you might take to protect them.

Source: FindLaw, "Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics," accessed July 15, 2016

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