How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony?

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By Brette Sember, JD Updated Mar 28, 2024


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Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance, can be crucial for a spouse with a lower income or fewer financial resources after a divorce. Alimony is usually intended to assist a spouse in getting on their feet again after a divorce and to equalize the economic disparities in income between two spouses.

Each state has its own laws regarding when and for how long alimony is awarded. In most situations, if alimony is awarded, it is for a specific number of years. The length of time often hinges on the length of the marriage.

Longer marriages usually result in alimony payable for a more extended period, while shorter marriages result in alimony payable for less time.

Key Takeaways

  • Most states don't require a minimum marriage duration for alimony, but longer marriages increase eligibility. Prenuptial agreements can ensure alimony.
  • Longer marriages often lead to longer alimony periods. Some states have specific duration requirements for alimony eligibility.
  • Lifetime alimony is typically awarded in long marriages where one spouse is elderly or disabled.
  • When determining spousal support, courts consider income, earning capacity, contributions to the marriage, and the standard of living during the marriage.
  • Alimony laws and durations vary significantly by state.

Types of Alimony

Several types of alimony may be awarded in a divorce:

  • Temporary alimony: This is paid while the divorce case is pending in court to keep the spouse with a lower income financially stable until the case is decided.
  • Durational alimony: This is alimony that is awarded for a specific period of time. The purpose is usually to allow the lower-earning spouse to seek education or training so that they can get a job or get a better job and become self-supporting.
  • Permanent alimony: This is awarded for life and ends with the death of either spouse or if the recipient spouse remarries. It is usually only awarded if one spouse is elderly or disabled.
  • Lump sum alimony: Alimony can sometimes be paid as one lump sum.

How Long Do You Have To Be Married to Be Eligible for Alimony?

The eligibility for alimony can differ based on state laws where the divorce proceedings occur. Generally, most states do not enforce a minimum marriage duration for alimony eligibility. The likelihood of receiving alimony increases with the length of the marriage.

If you and your spouse created a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement that states that you’ll get alimony as a part of your divorce settlement, you’ll likely get alimony no matter the length of time you were married.

You have to abide by that contract unless one of you challenges it in court or you both agree to revoke it.

Marriage Duration and Alimony Eligibility

Most states do not have a minimum length a marriage must last for alimony to be granted.

However, a few states do. For example, in Florida, if you have been married seven years or less, you will not receive alimony unless specific circumstances prove that it is necessary.

Alimony is usually only available in Texas if the marriage lasts ten years or more. In Utah, a marriage generally must last at least five years for alimony to be awarded.

Some states apply a formula to determine how long alimony should be paid. For example, in New York, alimony generally lasts up to a third of the length of the marriage for marriages under 15 years and up to 40% of the length of the marriage in a marriage over 15 years.

The longer the marriage, the longer alimony will be ordered. Short-term marriages result in less lengthy alimony.

If alimony is needed in the short term to assist a spouse in obtaining education or training to enter or re-enter the job market and support themselves, the length of marriage is often a factor that is considered, but the most significant consideration is what the spouse needs to become self-supporting and financially stable.

Marriage Duration and Lifetime Alimony Eligibility

Permanent or lifetime alimony is usually awarded when the spouse receiving the alimony is elderly or disabled. They don’t work, can’t work, or work very little, and it is unlikely that will change. This is most common in lengthy marriages, such as those of 20 years or more.

Other Factors Influencing Alimony Awards

The length of the marriage is a crucial factor when a court makes an alimony determination. Other factors are considered as well, such as:

  • Each spouse’s income and earning capacity
  • Each spouse’s employment and employability
  • Each spouse’s financial resources and assets
  • Assets each spouse brought to the marriage
  • Whether one spouse stayed home with the children during the marriage or was a homemaker
  • Whether one spouse supported the other when they obtained a degree or professional license or supported them in starting a business and other economic and non-economic contributions
  • Economic opportunities one spouse lost due to the marriage
  • The custody arrangement for any children
  • The standard of living the couple had while married
  • The health and age of the parties
  • The education and abilities of the parties

Final Thoughts

The length of the marriage is an important factor in determining the length of alimony payments. Alimony is shorter in shorter marriages and lengthier in longer marriages. Each state has its own laws, though, so it is important to determine what the rules are in your own state.

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