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What you need to know about alimony

There was a time in America's not-so-distant past when nearly every ex-wife left the courthouse with a divorce decree granting her alimony. But those days are gone and won't be coming back.

Today, the term spousal support is used most often, and an ex-husband is as likely to emerge with a judgment granting him these payments as his ex-wife, as many women earn more than their husbands if they are employed in professional fields and their husbands are blue-collar workers.

The intent of alimony is to reduce the effects of disparate and unfair economic consequences of divorce. This is especially needed when one spouse requires a supplement to his or her income in order to make ends meet, or when that spouse has been staying home to take care of the house and kids.

It can be justified, because in many instances, one spouse — usually the woman, but not always — sacrifices his or her own career to lend support to the other spouse. One example could be a promising student who drops out of college to waitress while her husband slogs through law or med school. If he decides to dump her a few years or a couple of decades into the marriage, at least she can get compensated.

Alimony also allows both parties to maintain relatively the same standard of living post-divorce as they enjoyed while they were married. This is important so one ex-spouse isn't consigned to a lifetime of clipping coupons for early bird suppers while the other ears dinner at the country club and takes winter vacations in the Dominican Republic.

Courts have a great deal of latitude when figuring the amount, if any, of alimony to be awarded. They consider factor such as:

-- The length of the marriage. Longer marriages trend toward higher awards for longer periods of time.

-- The ex-spouse's age

-- Emotional and physical status

-- State of their finances

-- The former couple's lifestyle

-- How long it will take for the spouse to financially rehabilitate him- or herself after the divorce through job training or education

A final consideration is the payor spouse's financial ability to provide financial assistance to the payee while still supporting her- or himself.

Your family law attorney can advise as to whether you qualify for alimony payments from your ex.

Source: Findlaw, "Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics," accessed Nov. 04, 2016

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