Are You Eligible for Alimony After Your Divorce?

ChecklistWhen Amber walked down the aisle eight years ago, she thought she was going to spend the rest of her life with Marcus. After their second child came along four years ago, they decided that Amber should leave her job as a product manager to take care of the children full time while Marcus continued working as a sales manager. Life didn’t work out the way Amber had hoped. She and Marcus drifted apart. Now, Amber feels that divorce is inevitable, but she worries about her finances. She knows that Marcus would be required to pay child support if she has primary custody of the children, but what about her expenses? She knows it will be hard to get back into the job field and that she might need to return to school to receive more training.

Amber’s story might sound similar to yours. If you are considering divorce, you may wonder how you will be able to maintain your lifestyle as a single woman, especially if you are not currently working. This is exactly why alimony (also called spousal support or spousal maintenance) was created. When you get divorced, in most states a judge can order your spouse to make payments to you for a while to help you get back on your feet as you re-establish yourself on your new path.

Do you qualify for alimony? That depends on a lot of different factors.

Alimony Today

The alimony laws are different from state to state, so you will need to discuss this with a divorce attorney in your state to get a clear picture of whether a judge is likely to grant you alimony. It’s important to be aware that many judges today are awarding alimony on a decreasing basis and for shorter durations. It is still worth it for you to explore the possibility of receiving alimony after a divorce, especially if you’ve been married to your spouse for many years and there is a considerable income disparity between you and your husband.

Long Marriage

The longer you and your spouse were married, the more likely you will receive alimony and the longer the alimony duration is likely to be. If you were only married for a year before divorce, your chances of winning alimony are slim; however, if you’ve been married for ten years or more and can show a significant disparity in income, you will have a good chance of getting alimony.  Amber was married to Marcus for eight years, which may be long enough for a judge to grant her alimony.

Income Disparity

In order to be awarded alimony, you must show that your spouse earns significantly more income than you, or that you stayed out of the workforce to take care of the home or children. If you earn more than your husband or your incomes are nearly equal, a judge won’t see any reason to provide you with alimony. For instance, if Marcus earned $80,000 a year as a sales manager and Amber earned $60,000 a year as a product manager, a judge would likely presume that Amber could support herself on her salary alone. However, since Amber dropped out of the workforce to care for the couple’s children, she has a good chance of receiving alimony.

How Much Alimony Can I Expect?

The amount of alimony you can expect from your spouse after a divorce will depend in large part on his income and how much a judge believes he can spare on alimony. This is one of the many areas where a divorce can get nasty. Some spouses may try to under-report income to avoid alimony payments. (Learn about  Six Places toLook for Hidden Assets During Divorce.) If you can, try to obtain evidence of your spouse’s earnings prior to filing for divorce and make sure all of your records are in good order.

Judges and state laws can be fickle, so don’t assume alimony is coming your way. Even if you do receive alimony, it won’t allow you to live the same quality of life as when you were married. You’ll still need to prepare for a very different financial life once you separate from your spouse, especially if you earned significantly less than him. Learn more about how to financially prepare for divorce by reading through our great archive of divorce articles for women.

31 thoughts on “Are You Eligible for Alimony After Your Divorce?”

  1. Weve been married 29 years. About 17 or more years on and off he has been Incarcerated. He has been out 4 years and has a very good job, however he just was injured on the job also been off almost a year on disability but should return to work soon. We live in California i am on ssdi receive 733. Mo. He took sold gave tore. Up everything i had worked for. We have a 27 year old son who has just got a pair of shoes i paid half for and so did his dad but that is all he has got i raised my son he is scitzo/ pts ect….what are we entitled to? How do i find out his wages, if he has assets, credit, lawsuit, bank accounts or piggybank accounts? He has a girlfriend he bought a ring for. How do I go about finding out these things?

    1. Also he has been paid several settlements i never seen a penny of we are seperated now and im just wondering since i dont have the money to file does he have to be the one to start off the divorce? And if putting money in a joint return with his girlfriend am i entitled to any of that?

      1. Any accounts he holds with his girlfriend that came from marital funds are likely still marital property, subject to division. In general, either of you can file for divorce, and in most locales filing fees are reduced or waived if you don’t have funds. You can check with an attorney or your county clerk to find out how it works in your area.

    2. It doesn’t sound as though your husband is able to hang onto money, so I’m guessing that he doesn’t have funds set aside for a rainy day. If you decide to initiate divorce proceedings, you can ask that he produce documentation as part of the legal process.

      1. Thank you. Well the tjing of it is when he was out of prison he makes very good money we both did and your right hed go blow his and I always was the one that would buy necessaties made sure i had a vehicle everything i had was going for myself before getting married. I saved money in my moms bag of flour in the freezer for a down payment on house so when he got released hed have a Home to come home to. Well he went back to making twice my salary i worked for Chevron I had a 4 yr. Old handicapped daughter to care for long story short 2 yrs later our son was born. By tjat time Pat had tore tje house up totaled my pick up insurance paid i got another car he got mad totaled it went back to prison i got a 1986 5.0 mustang. When he got out he took everything i had left that he hadnt destroyed i got injured lost my daughter in 99 and my 27 yr son has had therapy and meds since 4 yrs old. I never asked for anything and he never offered but i have started divorce papers several timez and because of the level and movement him going in and out they never caught up.. With him so Now he has been out 3 years making 28. Plus expenses pay staying out of town and has bought alot for everyone but his soni mean cars rings him a truck his girlfriend an engagement ring i asked to norrow some money for my son a bed and some clothes hes 6’8 200 lbs. And ssi does not pay enough to barely servive. It was a loan 400.00 and he just brought home 3200. He said but he said he had to ask Sandra she takes care of the finances. The both live in seperate sober living. He says hes 52 and not going back to prison hes going to have a nice rretirement and not be needy. HaHa jokes on me again I guess his girl said no so He thru that dig in at me the same time she said no. Im like why not spend money for a divorce before buying her that ring if your truely planning on getting remarried. I mean really. P.s. I now live in oklahoma will that change the 10 yr law alimony or spousal support would i need to become a resident in california again befor filing? Whew sorrry didnt mean to write a book. HAPPY HOLIDAYS

  2. Me and my husband has been married for 7 years. I didn’t work the first six years of marriage because i was a military spouse with 3 kids and i could not work. So he was kicked out of the b army and we both have been working. He makes about four dollars more than i do. He is not mentally stable he is on drugs now and i can’t deal with these issues anymore. What are my chances of getting full custody, child support or alimony. I gave up college for him because he wanted me to be a stay at wife and mother because he was gone alot overseas. I feel like he owe us alot for what he has put our family through.

  3. I have been married 24 years ,I have a son who is 17 he receives ssd and he gets 804 a month ,I am on ssi and receive 733 a month that’s my only income ,my husband recipes ssd and gets 1500 a month and recipes 1900 from his pension a month ,what am I in tilted to receive after my divorce, I have had back surgery and am left with nerve damaged and a cage in my throat, and cannot ever go back to work ,I am 58 years old female

  4. I was married for 24 years and hadn’t worked in a number of years. We divorced in 2012 in California. I was granted alimony with no ending date. My ex husband lost his job in March and served me papers to end alimony. I did not have the money to hire a lawyer or have enough time to seek legal aid. He is in California and I live in another state and I wasn’t given enough time to respond to the court. I was served by mail 2 weeks before the court date. I called the court in CA to ask for a continuance and was told no but the case would be left open so that I could take him back to court for alimony. The problem is that I wouldn’t know if he has found employment because we do not keep in contact. How do I go about looking into his employment status so that I can take him back to court? I am not making enough money to live on without the alimony.

  5. Hi there! I have been married for 6 years but we been together for 16 years. Our house is under my name and we bought it before we got married. My daughter is 17 years and my son is 14 years old with autism.
    He had a 20 years old son and 17 years old daighter from previous relationships and the kids live with us.
    I worked for 14 years and recently quit because he asked me to stay home and care for the kids.
    We had a fight and had not communicate for a year. I ask him to leave witn his other 2 children but they will not leave they said they have a right to stay. I am worried now because he is not giving me money to pay for the mortgage and the bills and for food and the money from our joint account is running out, i tried to talk to him about it but he is avoiding me. I am confuse if i file for divorce , would i be able to get child support and spousal support? Are they still have the right to stay and live in my house? I need my house because of my disabled son. Please i need your honest advice. Thank you

  6. Btw, he makes about $95k a year and we also have property in the Philippines worth about 35k $
    Thank you

  7. Hi ,

    My husband and i have been married for 4 years and have no children, except our 2 dogs. What can i expect with a divorce? We bought the house together, iam not on the mortgage but i am on the deed. Can he keep the house without giving me anything? I gave 2500 for the down payment and now hes saying he does not remember that.

  8. I live in Texas. I worked for the whole of our marriage, we’ve been married for 14 years. We have 3 children. I was laid off when I got pregnant with our youngest, and was not able to get employment again, because obviously I was pregnant, then had a newborn. I decided to go back to school to finish my degree so that I could find better employment. I am almost finished with school, and my spouse wants a divorce now. I have no money, I am in debt with student loans, and I have no car and we share an apartment with our kids. I am not sure what I would be entitled to, but I am very worried. My insurance is through my husband’s work. I am currently in an unpaid internship (it is the capstone for my degree). I will likely have a job after a year, but I have to complete my internship, I have worked so hard for this, I can’t just quit because he doesn’t care anymore. I also am the one who cares for our baby while he works. I really am blindsided and not sure what I can do at this point. Our two other children are teens, I do not have the money to support them on my own. He seems to think that he could just keep them. I have been the one who does everything for them. He just works and gets the money. I do everything else. My concern is … that he can just tell them I am not able to support them, so he could take my babies away from me? What do I need to do?

    1. Stop worrying and make an appointment to see an attorney right away to find out what your rights are in your state. It is likely that your husband will be required to pay you child support for your baby, and alimony until you become self supporting. And child sharing for older children is often 50-50, in which case their father would owe you additional child support for them.

  9. I was married for 15 years, together for 29 years. I live in Washington state. I decided to finally leave my ex-husband June of 2013. He became abusive with me and alcoholic. I tried to help him but, failed. It took me 3 years and 2 attorneys to get divorced. My ex-husband was court ordered to pay temporary Spousal Support. I was court ordered to get a job, (prior to that, I had been out of the work-force for 5 years). I ran our small business. Before that I was in Procurement. My attorney suggested that I move from where I was staying and rent a home, since my ex was not paying the Support. I was afraid to do so, but eventually I did. It did not help. My ex paid the Spousal Maintenance when he felt like it, usually late and sometimes not in full. My ex suddenly stopped paying the Spousal Maintenance in July of 2016. I was able to gracefully put in my notice and move from the home that I was renting. It is in our divorce decree that my ex is STILL to be paying Spousal Maintenance. He made one last payment and that was it. I rented a “room” from a friend for a couple of years. I worked but could not find a job making enough money to fully support myself. I do have my ex’s property liened but so does the IRS, because he owes back-taxes. I do not think that I will ever see the money that my ex owes me. My ex husband did so many things to me. He made me basically homeless and he ruined my good credit. I do not have the money for another attorney. I am now a full-time college student. What would you do, if you were me?

  10. Deborah O'Hara

    I have been married for 35 years, and have been dealing with a husband who refuses to put me on one of the main checking accounts so I cannot find out how much he is taking in. (He is a Real Estate Broker.) He controls how much money I spend, etc. I have been on Covered California for my insurance and I am told by our CPA, that the taxes he is filing are low, because we had BK, and he has the write offs. I wanted to hear it from them. He does everything through his corporation as well. Still concerned. And, how do I go after him for alimony if I file for divorce, if he is reporting such low amounts for our taxes? My husband has integrity issues, and I don’t trust him. I don’t want to be responsible for any tax issues in the future, either. How can I protect myself? I don’t want to get emotional about this, but just say, I have been through so much with this man. Thanks, in advance.

    1. Support will be based on your income and his income, and if what he reports for his income is too low, then support will be low. In divorce, you may need to hire a forensic accountant to analyze his records to determine his true income. And since he likely won’t voluntarily grant you access to his records, you’ll need to have an attorney take legal action to force his compliance.

  11. I didn’t bask for alimony because I didn’t want the divorce, but I gave that man 32 years of my life. It has been 8 years and I continue to struggle. I work full time (killing me physically) and still struggle. Can I still go after him for alimony?

    1. It depends on what your divorce agreement says. If it says no alimony now but you can ask for it in the future (the court “retained jurisdiction” over the matter) then you can ask for it. But if it said you are waiving support forever, then probably not. But I’m not an attorney and I don’t know the laws of your state.

  12. I have been married for 28 years and I do not want a divorce but he does, so he’s been giving a fake ssn to his job so I can’t prove how much he really makes, plus on top of earning $25 a hour he also collect unemployment from a previous job making about the same amount. I have not worked in over 12 years, but he’s trying to get me to get a job now and I know it’s only so he won’t have to pay me alimony but he says that’s not why, so it creates us to fight which and I want to work on our marriage cause I don’t want a divorce so do I just get a job to make him happy or is it a trap and I’ll be screwing myself out of alimony?? I’m also going through a lot of physical issues right now and family problems so it’s tearing me down to my lowest point in life so now he says I’m crazy and need help. I’m about to have a breakdown, please help!! I’m afraid he’s going to have me locked up then I’ll really lose everything and he walks away laughing, what can I do????

    1. First of all, take a deep breath. Now, let’s think about this. If he wants you to get a job so he can divorce you and not pay you alimony, getting a job won’t save your marriage, probably the opposite. And with everything you are going through physically and with your family, you probably won’t be a good employee anyway. So deal with what you have to deal with for your health or your family. Then you can deal with his crazy antics, once those issues are handled.

  13. I have a question. Have been divorced for few years. Just left. Asked for nothing at time. My ex wife makes significantly more money than me. We have a child together. I was eligible at time am I still?

    1. If you waived alimony in your divorce agreement, it is probably too late to change your mind, but you can check with someone who knows the law in your state to be sure. You may be eligible to receive child support on behalf of your child.

    1. If your divorce papers said that the court will retain jurisdiction over the issue of support, then you likely can apply for alimony. If your divorce papers say you waived your right to support, then you closed that door and cannot ask for alimony. But check with an attorney to see if there is something unique about your case that would allow you to petition for alimony after 9 years.

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