Alimony is "Just a Business Deal"


Most judges do not use an award of alimony to “punish” a wrongful spouse, or the “reward” a virtuous spouse. They try to fairly and realistically allocate the available future cash flow between the divorcing parties. The most important criteria include the parties’ respective ages, their health, their ability to contribute to their own support from any source available to them, and the way they have become accustomed to living. How much do each of them legitimately need, in addition to what they can reasonably be expected to provide for themselves, to enable them to maintain a “reasonable” lifestyle? 


Two Points of View---"Rehabilitate" or Something More?


Traditionally, the primary purpose of alimony was to enable a financially dependent wife (at least one who was not at fault for the destruction of the marriage) to maintain the same standard of living to which she had become accustomed during the marriage, provided, of course, that the husband could afford it.  As time has passed, many now believe that alimony should be limited to a period of time sufficient to provide the needy spouse to become self-supporting.  Alimony is not a lifetime pension.

Indefinite Alimony   

In most states, courts may award indefinite alimony if (1) due to age, illness, infirmity, or disability, the party seeking alimony cannot reasonably be expected to make substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting; or (2) even after the party seeking alimony will have made as much progress toward becoming self-supporting as can reasonably be expected, the respective standards of living of the parties will be unconscionably disparate. Self-sufficiency, per se, does not always preclude an award of indefinite alimony if, even after a spouse has made substantial progress toward becoming self-supporting, there will be an unconscionable disparity in the parties’ standards of living. There is no “hard and fast rule” which dictates that a certain percentage of disparity in incomes is “unconscionable.” Uncertainty prevails.







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