How Long Do I Pay Alimony?

The answer is fact intensive so there is no one size fits all answer.

Alimony is awarded after consideration of a number of factors many of which overlap and are interrelated. The Court is not permitted to use one factor to the exclusion of all others but some factors are obviously less important in a particular case than others.

(1) the parties’ past relations and conduct

(2) the length of the marriage

(3) the parties’ ability to work

(4) the source and amount of property awarded to the parties

(5) the age of the parties

(6) the parties’ ability to pay alimony

(7) the parties’ present situation

(8) the needs of the parties

(9) the health of the parties

(10) the parties prior standard of living

(11) the parties’ contribution to the joint estate

(12) general principles of equity


This is “permanent” alimony and occurs with long marriages, one spouse having adequate or superior income and the other having meager or no income (and little or no ability to earn)

In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the Court can only order modifiable support. The payor can always ask for a reduction or termination of support.   The trial court can ascertain the progress made by the recipient spouse in becoming educated or employed and

-Can give additional time to achieve self-support, or

– Determine that insufficient effort was made to do so, and

-Support can be increased if warranted or

-Decreased if income is now coming to the recipient or is not because of a lack of appropriate effort

-Or abate support if the income to the recipient is such that it replaces the support ordered from the other spouse.


Sometimes called “Rehabilitative Alimony”, this is essentially a contract to pay a sum of money over a period of time.

In modern negotiations, transitional or rehabilitative spousal support is granted to give the recipient spouse an opportunity to obtain or complete an education or to otherwise become more viable in the job market, i.e., able to replace the spousal support with earnings of his or her own.

There are multiple “rules of thumb” for the determination of how long rehabilitative alimony should run. None of those rules are correct in all cases. Some courts are 4 for 1, 3 for 1 or even 2 for 1. The benefit is that it ends upon the occurrence of a date regardless of either party’s circumstances.