Do I have to pay alimony to my lazy spouse?

Your marriage is on the brink. You’ve been the breadwinner and are tired of supporting someone with whom there’s no more emotional connection. But will divorce provide you some financial relief? How are you going to be able to afford your own expenses AND support your non-contributing spouse?

Whether you have to support your spouse upon divorce is the issue of alimony. Alimony is financial support from one spouse to the other. It’s usually over a period of time, but may be in the form of a lump sum payment. What’s the risk that you’ll have to pay alimony and how does it work?

Generally, the longer your marriage and the greater the financial disparity between the parties, the higher the likelihood that you’ll have to pay alimony.

Whether to award alimony and how much depends on a few factors: length of the marriage, age, health, station, occupation, income, skills, employability, estate, liabilities, needs, and financial prospects to name a few. The court will also take into consideration any other child support or alimony orders being paid.

But if your spouse is a lazy pile of %#&*, do you still have to pay alimony?

The short answer is that the longer the marriage, the higher the likelihood that you’ll have to pony up some support.

One of the law’s key goals in divorce is to try to keep the parties as close as possible to the lifestyle they led during the marriage. Therefore, if one of the spouses didn’t work for a significant period of time, and therefore is less employable and dependent on the other spouse, there’s a strong likelihood that alimony will be awarded. This is especially true if the “non-working” spouse made non-economic contributions such as child-rearing and house keeping, which are considered non-economic contributions to the marriage.

However, if the recipient spouse is unemployed or underemployed, the court may use what’s called “income attribution” to decrease the payor’s financial burden. Essentially, if the court believes the recipient spouse should be earning more, the court can use income attribution to attribute earnings to that spouse. The payor has the burden of proving the other spouse can earn more. This is sometimes done through experts who research and can provide reliable information about the recipient’s employability in a particular job market.

While it’s nearly impossible to know definitively whether a judge would order alimony and for how long, the above issues and factors should give you a better idea of where you stand on this issue. Before filing for divorce, it’s advisable to engage a family law attorney for a comprehensive assessment, which will give you a more nuanced analysis of your particular circumstances.

Feel free to contact us if you have any questions about alimony or divorce in general.