Spousal support is often the most contentious and difficult issue to resolve in a divorce, especially in cases of long-term marriages where one spouse has not worked or where the parties’ have large differences in their respective incomes. Many factors can play into the alimony determination, including the parties actual income, historical income, ability of the parties’ to earn, the lifestyle of the parties during the marriage, the financial needs of the parties and the ability of the payor spouse to assist the payee spouse in meeting his or her monthly financial needs.
Unlike child support, there is no specific formula to calculate alimony. Alimony determinations are highly fact specific and can be very subjective as a court considers the various relevant factors. Alimony may be awarded on a temporary basis during the pendency of a divorce action and also may be awarded as part of the final decree of divorce. Alimony can be awarded, at maximum, for a period equal to the length of the marriage, but may be awarded for a shorter period. Rehabilitative alimony may be awarded for a period shorter than the length of the marriage in order to afford the spouse receiving alimony to obtain education, training or skills necessary for that person to support themselves financially. Where a party refuses to work or is voluntarily underemployed, courts may impute income to a party for alimony purposes, i.e. treat that person as if they can earn more income than they actually do. Imputation of income for purposes of an alimony determination often involves a vocational assessment which is the process whereby an expert determines the ability of party to obtain employment and earn income.