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Alimony: Qualifying, Award, & Length

When I meet with divorce clients, I am often asked about alimony. “Do I qualify for alimony? How much alimony will I be awarded? How long will I receive alimony?” I thought I would take this opportunity to answer these questions. Let me begin by saying that alimony is one of the most contentious topics in divorce. I have dealt with couples that are very settlement-driven on all marital assets until it comes to alimony.

Do I qualify for alimony?

The courts ultimately determine whether you should receive alimony based on your need AND your soon-to-be former spouse’s ability to pay.  For instance, if one spouse has focused on his or her career and the other has focused on domestic responsibilities, the courts will generally require the primary income earner to pay to help the spouse that is making less or no income to cover living expense and a level similar to the marital standard of living. The courts also consider each spouse’s current or anticipated income, which includes future earning ability; each spouse’s resources; assets, including marital property awarded in the divorce; debts; the marital standard of living; and the length of marriage.

How much will I be awarded?

Unlike child support, alimony is not based on a set of calculations or guidelines; unfortunately, there is no mathematical method to predict how the judge will calculate your alimony. The judge will consider all the things he or she did when determining if you qualified for alimony---your assets, your spouse’s assets, your ability to support yourself, your living situation during your marriage and anything else the court sees appropriate. The judge has significant discretion when making his or her decision on the amount of the alimony.

How long will I receive alimony?

In Arkansas, there are three types of alimony: temporary, short-term or sometimes referred to as rehabilitative, or permanent. The court makes the decision which type of alimony you are awarded depending what it believes to be appropriate for your situation.

  • Temporary is just that…for a short period of time. It is temporarily awarded covering the period between when the divorce is filed and when the divorce decree is issued. Example: The court may determine that you only need it to cover your expenses to get you set up in a new location within a set time period.
  • Short-term or rehabilitative is for a specified period of time to allow you to get on your feet. This is the most common type of alimony awarded in Arkansas. Example: The judge may order this if you need to go back to school to find a job to support yourself, so the order may be something along the lines of six months after you complete school giving you time to find a job allowing you to independently support yourself.  
  • Permanent is from now on, unless you remarry or enter into a situation that the court would consider as equivalent to remarriage. This alimony is typically awarded to spouses with an illness or advanced age that would limit his or her ability to become gainfully employed.

Of course, every case is unique and varies greatly, so we build each case based upon the specific circumstances surrounding the individual case. Divorce is difficult, call Kevin Hickey Law Partners to help ease the process. If you are already receiving alimony, but feel it should be modified, we can help you with that as well. The court can modify an alimony award at any time. Therefore, we can file a petition with the court for a modification if there is a change of circumstance since the award was issued.  We can also help you file a motion with the court requesting payments for alimony that you were awarded, but your former spouse has not paid. For matters such as alimony, you need an attorney that is experienced and well versed. Kevin Hickey Law Partners has many years of experience and expertise. Schedule your consultation today.