Alimony in a Divorce Case: Three Different Ways It Can Be Awarded

One of the biggest problems in a divorce is often the finances. Sometimes one of the partners simply won't be able to support themselves once they are living on their own. While equitable property distribution during the divorce can resolve that problem, there are cases where that isn't enough. In such situations, the judge may award alimony to the spouse who needs financial help. While most people are familiar with the concept of alimony, many people find it surprising that there are actually several different types of alimony. Read on to find out what they are and whether you might qualify for one of these alimony types during a divorce.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent alimony is the alimony type that is probably most familiar to people. This kind of alimony is meant to compensate a spouse who is unable to care for themselves financially. Permanent alimony is sometimes awarded in cases where one spouse is a stay-at-home parent or where one spouse is unable to work due to illness or injury. It can be awarded in nearly any situation in which one spouse did not work during the marriage, as well.

In cases where the spouse requesting permanent alimony did not work during the marriage (or made very little money), they may qualify for this kind of alimony because they will be unable to maintain a reasonable standard of living without any income from their spouse. This alimony begins as soon as the divorce is final (or at another specific point in time ordered by the judge) and will terminate only under either of two circumstances:

  1. The death of either the alimony payer or the alimony recipient

  2. The remarriage of the alimony recipient

While permanent alimony can only be terminated in the two circumstances above, it may be modified in cases where there is a significant change in the financial status of either the alimony payer or the alimony recipient. For example, if the person paying the alimony loses their job and gets a new job that pays only half of the original job, the judge may lower the monthly alimony payment.

Lump Sum Alimony

Lump sum alimony payments may sometimes be ordered by the judge in cases where an alimony request is reasonable, but where a permanent alimony payment would be too much. The main goal of a lump sum alimony payment is often to give a spouse the money they need to start a new life on their own. A spouse may have their own income and still qualify for lump sum alimony. Lump sum alimony is often ordered in cases where one spouse made significant nonfinancial contributions to the marriage and the judge wants to award compensation for these contributions.

For example, stay-at-home moms who focused on childcare for the duration of the marriage may be awarded a lump sum in recognition of that contribution, even if they secure full-time employment during the divorce. Despite its name, lump sum alimony is sometimes paid in installments. If the judge orders lump sum alimony to be paid in installments, those installments will be paid for a specific period of time—only until the total lump sum ordered has been paid off.

Reimbursement Alimony

Reimbursement alimony is typically reserved for situations in which a spouse has made significant financial contributions to the other spouse's education or job skill training during the marriage. For example, a spouse who worked two jobs for years to pay for their partner's schooling fits this category. The person who supported their spouse during school may deserve alimony payments from that spouse once they've graduated and are making money. Reimbursement alimony may be permanent or it may be paid for only a period specified by the judge.

If you are going through a divorce and need some financial help to survive on your own, it is smart to speak with a family law attorney about alimony. If you think you qualify for one of the three kinds of alimony discussed above, financial worries may soon be a thing of the past! Go to sites like this one to find more information about divorce attorneys.