How Long Will I Have to Pay Alimony?

By David Hammond

In New York, alimony is referred to as “spousal maintenance,” although you may sometimes hear it referred to as “spousal support.” Spousal maintenance is a payment made from one spouse to another during or after a divorce. The intent behind an alimony award is to try and permit both spouses to continue to live a lifestyle similar to that which they had while married. Whether you think you might be entitled to alimony or whether you think your spouse will pursue alimony in divorce proceedings, you will probably want to know how long you can expect to pay or receive alimony.

How Long Will I Have to Pay Alimony?

Alimony is sometimes awarded to a spouse to give them a stepping stone to complete any necessary job training or education prior to entering or reentering the workplace. Other times, it can extend for a longer period of time. There a few different types of alimony that a court may award in a divorce. These include:

  • Temporary alimony: Also referred to as “alimony pendente lite,” temporary alimony is paid to a spouse while divorce proceedings are happening and terminate once the judge issues the final divorce decree or once a more permanent alimony award is established.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: This type of alimony is especially common in cases where there is a significant discrepancy in the respective earning or potential earning and job skills of the spouses. A court will order rehabilitative alimony when one spouse is in need of further education or job training in order to enter the workforce or reenter the workforce after divorce in order to become financially independent. It is a temporary form of alimony. You will often see rehabilitative alimony where one spouse has left the workforce in order to maintain the home and raise a family.
  • Permanent alimony: This is another type of alimony that is paid from one spouse to another after the divorce has been finalized. The length of time that a spouse will have to pay permanent alimony will vary depending on a number of factors, including the length of the marriage. Permanent alimony is usually reserved for cases where the spouses have been married for a long time when there is a significant difference between the respective income levels of the spouses, and/or when one spouse suffers from health problems or may otherwise be unable to maintain gainful employment and cannot become self-sufficient. 

Some alimony awards will be durational. This means that they are awarded for a fixed period. This, in turn, usually means that the spouse receiving the alimony should be able to become self-sufficient, financially speaking, by the time the duration of the alimony comes to an end. In general, marriages that lasted between 0 and 15 years will have alimony awards spanning somewhere between 15-30% of the length of the marriage. On the other hand, marriages that lasted between 15 and 20 years will have alimony awards spanning somewhere between 40% of the length of the marriage. Marriages lasting over 20 years will have alimony awards spanning between 35-50% of the length of the marriage.

In certain cases, a court may decide to order non-durational support. This support is permanent. So permanent, in fact, that it will usually not end until a spouse dies or remarries.

Divorce Attorneys

Alimony, whether paying or receiving, can have a significant impact on your post-divorce financial wellbeing. At CDH Law, we provide trusted legal advocacy and counsel throughout divorce proceedings. Contact us today.

About the Author
David is a former military prosecutor and defense lawyer with over a decade of experience fighting for service members and their families. He served nine years and two combat tours as an active duty US Army officer, then joined the Reserves and settled down in Syracuse to be near family. Now representing people across Central New York charged with serious felonies, misdemeanors, DWIs, and traffic offenses, he puts the same level of commitment into his civilian law practice. If you have any questions regarding this article, you can contact David here.