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What is alimony and how does it function?

Let's say that a married couple decides to divorce. During the course of the marriage, which lasted many years, one of the spouses gave up their career so they could look after the family's kids. The other spouse continued working in their lucrative and demanding job. Now that the divorce is on the table, the spouse that gave up their career for the good of the family is wondering "how will I financially deal with my post-divorce life? I have few career opportunities to consider."

This is where alimony (often called spousal support) comes in to play. Alimony is a crucial divorce tool that makes one of the spouses pay the other spouse in installments so that the divorce doesn't financially ruin the receiving spouse.

It may sound simple, but the way alimony is calculated is far from simple. Many factors come into play, such as the length of the marriage; the current earning power of the splitting spouse, as well as the future earning power of the splitting spouses; the standard of living during the marriage; the condition of the spouses, both emotionally and physically, as well as their age; and the ability of the paying spouse to still support himself or herself in addition to the spousal support payments.

There could be other factors that play a role in your alimony calculation. It is very fluid, and a judge will ultimately decide what the proper alimony amount is. These payments could be adjusted under certain circumstances, but proper protocol must be followed to make such an appeal.

Source: FindLaw, "Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics," Accessed Sept. 19, 2014

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