Alimony, or spousal support, is one of those topics that many separating spouses find concerning. Whether or not an ex-spouse is entitled to additional monthly support payments can be a complicated issue, but Delaware’s laws offer guidelines for family law judges and attorneys to consider in a settlement negotiation or agreement.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony payments are similar to child support payments, in that a former spouse is ordered to provide monthly monetary support to a former spouse. Alimony payments can be required by either spouse regardless of gender, and can be ordered independently of any child support. The payments may also be ordered both while the divorce is pending and after the divorce is final.
In order to be eligible for alimony payments, one spouse must be dependent on the other. Being dependent means that the spouse is unable to provide for his or her needs, usually because the spouse cannot work. The spouse may be unable to work because of a lack of education, a disability, or because the couple has a child with a condition which requires constant care.
What Does A Court Consider?
When deciding whether or not to award alimony to a spouse, the family court judge considers several factors. These factors include:
- The financial resources and wealth of the person seeking alimony,
- The ability of the former spouse to support himself/herself,
- The length of the marriage,
- The couple’s standard of living during the marriage,
- The age and health of both spouses,
- Contributions made to a spouse’s education or vocational training,
- Whether the paying spouse has enough resources to meet his or her own needs,
- Whether the person seeking alimony gave up any work or educational opportunities to support the family, and/or
- Any other factors the court deems fair or just.
The court will look at the entirety of the marriage, and determine if it would be fair to require one spouse to pay alimony to another. For example, if a wife stayed at home to raise children while her husband worked, and has been out of the workforce for over a decade, she may be awarded alimony even if she is physically capable of working. The contributions that she made to the family (childrearing, housekeeping, etc.) caused her to miss out on the opportunity to build a career, and without alimony she may not be able to make the kind of money she needs to support herself financially.
In the same way, if a husband worked to support the family while his wife was in medical school, and the couple divorced shortly after the wife became a doctor, a family court judge will often recognize that the husband’s contributions during the marriage resulted in the wife’s dramatically increased earning potential, and would likely award alimony to the husband.
Pre-Nups and Changed Circumstances
If you were ordered to pay alimony to your former spouse, your obligation to pay can stop if your spouse’s circumstances change. For instance, if your former spouse remarries or cohabitates with another person, you will no longer have to pay alimony. While remarriage is easy enough to prove, showing that your former spouse is living with another person as a couple may require a hearing in front of the family court judge.
Additionally, the spouse receiving alimony has a continuing obligation to seek out vocational training or employment. If your former spouse finishes a degree or gets a high-paying job, the court may reconsider your duty to pay alimony.
Finally, people who are planning to get married can avoid ever having make these payments by having their spouse sign a prenuptial agreement waiving the right to seek alimony. If a spouse signs this type of contract, he or she will not be awarded alimony after a divorce. For many people, this type of future security is worth an uncomfortable conversation even if neither spouse enters the marriage with substantial financial resources.
At The Castro Law Firm, our knowledgeable Delaware alimony attorneys understand your concerns about your financial state after a divorce. Whether you are concerned about making ends meet or need help protecting your rights, our New Jersey and Delaware family law lawyers can guide you through every step of the separation and divorce process.
If you would like more information about alimony, child support, prenuptial agreements or any other family law issue, visit The Castro Law Firm online at www.thecastrofirm.com. For a consultation about your rights and obligations after a divorce, call us today at (302) 225-5700.