Can I get alimony? For how many years would I get the payments?
Your spouse can be ordered to pay you alimony if the judge finds that you were financially dependent on your spouse during the marriage. You can prove you were “dependent” if all of the following apply:
- you relied on your spouse for financial support,
- you don’t have sufficient property (including marital property) to provide for your needs, and
- you are unable to support yourself through work or you cannot work due to caring for a child whose condition makes it “inappropriate” for you to work.1
Even if you can prove you are “the dependent party,” there are still many factors a judge will consider when deciding if you will get alimony and how much you will get. See What factors will a judge consider when deciding whether or not I get alimony? for more information.
Alimony payments can be ordered to start while the divorce is still pending in court (known as interim or temporary alimony)2 and for a period of time after the divorce is finalized. The court will determine how long you or the other party will receive alimony. If you have been married for 20 years or longer, there is no limit to how long you can receive alimony. However, if you were married for less than 20 years, you cannot collect alimony for more than 50% of the length of the marriage.3 For example, if you were married for 10 years, you could only collect alimony for up to 5 years.
1 13 Del.C. § 1512(a),(b)
2 13 Del.C. § 1512(a)
3 13 Del.C. § 1512(d)
What factors will a judge consider when deciding whether or not I get alimony?
When making a decision about if you will get alimony, how much alimony will be awarded, and for how long it will last, the judge will consider many factors including, but not limited to:
- Your financial resources, including any marital property or separate property you will own at the end of the divorce and your ability to meet your needs on your own;
- If you need any additional education or training to find a job, the court will consider the time and expense necessary for that education or training;
- The standard of living established during the marriage;
- The length of the marriage;
- The age, physical, and emotional condition of both parties;
- Any financial or other contribution (like housekeeping or child care) made by either party to the education, training, vocational skills, career, or earning capacity of the other party;
- The ability of your spouse to meet his/her needs while paying you alimony;
- The tax consequences of alimony payments;
- Whether either party has put off or given up economic, education, or other employment opportunities during the course of the marriage; and
- Any other factors the judge thinks it is fair and appropriate to consider.1
Note: Marital fault will not be considered (for example, if one of you had an affair).1
If you are awarded alimony, your spouse no longer has to pay it once one of the following happens (unless you both agree otherwise in writing and it is provided for in the divorce decree):
- either of you die;
- you remarry; or
- you live with an intimate partner of either sex and you both hold yourselves out as a couple (known as cohabitation). It does not matter whether or not you get any financial benefit from the relationship and proof of sexual relations is not required to prove cohabitation.2
Note: If you waived (gave up) your right to alimony before, during, or after the marriage in the form of an agreement, such as a pre-nuptial agreement or a post-nuptial agreement, you cannot be awarded alimony.3
1 13 Del.C. § 1512(c)
2 13 Del.C. §§ 1519(b), 1512(g)
3 13 Del.C. § 1512(f)
Can an alimony award be modified (changed)?
Maybe. Alimony may be modified (changed) only if a party can show a real and substantial change of circumstances.1 For example, if the person ordered to pay alimony loses his/her job and can’t find another one, this might be a reason for a judge to reduce the amount of alimony s/he has to pay.
Note: If you fail to do something that you are required to do under a temporary order or the divorce decree, this does not mean that your spouse can just stop paying alimony. S/he may, however, go to court and ask the court to enforce the temporary order or decree or to ask for a suspension of your alimony payments if appropriate.2
1 13 Del.C. § 1519(a)(4)
2 13 Del.C. § 1520