An alimony state is one that has enacted a statute permitting a spouse with a lower income or who cannot work full time to request payments from the other spouse to support themselves after a divorce. Alimony, sometimes referred to as "spousal maintenance" or "spousal support", is cash payments from one spouse to another after separation and the final decree of divorce. This type of support must be established in a statute by each state's legislature. Every state has some form of alimony statute.
Alimony Exists in All States
All states have alimony statutes in effect. However, these statutes differ both in the type of alimony permitted and in the requirements that must be met to receive alimony. In every state, therefore, a spouse can request alimony as long as she meets the state's criteria. Additionally, courts in alimony states are allowed to review a divorce case and award alimony if it is warranted by the spouse's health or facts of the divorce. The variety of names for alimony, types of permissible alimony awards, exceptions to those permitted awards, requirements to receive alimony, length of time alimony can be made and other aspects of a state's alimony structure among the 50 states makes it impossible to create a list of the types of alimony states throughout the nation.
Alimony in Most States
The majority of states prohibit permanent alimony. Temporary alimony is the most common type of alimony statute, meaning that most states make it available to divorcing spouses. Many states limit an award of temporary alimony either by duration or amount. However, it is rehabilitative alimony that is the most frequent type of alimony awarded to a spouse. Rehabilitative alimony awards are favored by courts because they are intended to make the receiving spouse self-sufficient. Rehabilitative alimony is usually offered regardless of the number of years of marriage or fault in the divorce.
Alimony in Community Property States
Many community property states do not allow permanent or temporary alimony. Community property laws state that all assets and debts acquired during the marriage are owned equally by both spouses. The lack of alimony derives from the fact that after the divorce, both spouses are in the same financial situation, and neither has more or less asset to support the other. Community property states include New Mexico, Texas, Washington and Idaho. Rehabilitative alimony is typically available, but rarely awarded, in community property states. If awarded, the duration of alimony payments is usually quite short and the amount rather small.
Determining Alimony Amounts
Many states created their laws from the guidelines provided by the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act (UMDA). The UMDA recommends that courts consider five factors when awarding alimony:
- The requesting spouse's financial condition
- The time required for job training or education
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The requesting spouse's age, physician condition and emotional state
- The length of the marriage
- The ability of the other spouse to pay.
If, after considering these factors, it is evident that there is a strong need for support and that the non-requesting spouse can pay alimony, it is likely that courts will award temporary or rehabilitative alimony to the requesting spouse.
Impact of Pre and Post-Nuptial Agreements
If the spouses have signed a pre or post-nuptial agreement prohibiting alimony in any circumstance, neither party will receive alimony. The exception to this rule is when one spouse proves that he or she was forced to consent to the agreement. This requires evidence that the spouse's consent was given under extreme duress or fear. Absent this evidence, most courts will deny an alimony request.
Alimony requests must be presented to the court and supported by evidence of need. However, because all states permit some form of alimony, spouses in genuine need of additional money after a divorce are likely to receive financial support.