How Long Does Alimony Last?

Spousal support, which is also known as alimony, is often requested during divorce or separation proceedings. Depending on the court ruling, spousal support may be permanent or temporary. Several factors will be taken into account by the court when determining the need and amount of support. Another question often asked is how long do you have to pay spousal support to the other spouse?

The court will analyze various aspects of the marriage and financial situation when deciding an alimony agreement for divorcing spouses. A couple’s duration of marriage, their individual incomes, their earning capacities, their education, tax implications, their ages and health, and the standard of living of their marriage are just a few of the most significant factors. Additionally, if children are involved, the court will consider any agreements regarding child support.

What Are the Types of Alimony?

When a couple gets divorced, one of the most important aspects of the divorce is determining alimony, or spousal support and maintenance. Alimony falls into four categories: 

  1. Permanent periodic alimony 
  2. Rehabilitative alimony 
  3. Reimbursement alimony 
  4. Lump-sum alimony 

Depending on the length of the marriage, the earning capacities of each spouse, the value of each spouse’s contributions to the marital property, and the individual circumstances of the divorce, the court will determine how alimony is awarded.

Permanent Periodic Alimony

As a general rule, permanent alimony payments or permanent periodic alimony means that one spouse provides the other with financial support to maintain the standard of living the spouse enjoyed when they were united in marriage. 

In contrast with the other forms of alimony, permanent periodic alimony may continue indefinitely until the receiving spouse remarries, dies, or enters a supportive relationship. A long-term marriage usually qualifies a spouse for permanent alimony.

Rehabilitative Alimony

A spouse who receives rehabilitation alimony will be financially supported until he or she becomes self-sufficient. A rehabilitation alimony plan must provide for financial independence once the plan is completed. In rehabilitative alimony plans, the party receiving alimony is often required to attend college in order to increase chances of better employment. Before alimony can be awarded, the plan must be approved by a family law judge.

A spouse can also redevelop past skills or credentials in a rehabilitative alimony plan. Education, training, or work experience could also be regarded as a basis for acquiring employment skills. As a result of the rehabilitation plan, the spouse should gain the knowledge and skills needed to be self-supporting.

Reimbursement Alimony

Reimbursement alimony was given its name because a spouse that was supported during the marriage reimburses the other for those expenses. Depending on the court order, a spouse may be required to repay the other for a college or training program that the other spouse covered during the marriage. This type of alimony is only available if one spouse supported the other throughout the course of the relationship.

Lump Sum Alimony

A judge may order spousal support in the form of lump sum alimony in either of the following situations:

  • In place of a property settlement. The ordered lump-sum payment replaces any property or valuable items the spouse would have received from the marriage.
  • In place of periodic payments. A one-time payment based on a calculation of future alimony payments is typically due and paid immediately.

How Does the Length of My Marriage Affect the Spousal Support Arrangement?

If you’re going through a divorce, one of many questions you may ask is how many years do you have to pay alimony? The length of support granted will be decided based on the length of the marriage if the alimony award is not permanent.

Spousal support can even be awarded for the separation period and terminated once the divorce is final. Depending on how long the marriage lasted and other factors, support may continue for some time.

Alimony After Marriages Lasting Longer Than 10 Years

Long-term marriages are automatically considered to be those that lasted longer than ten years. After the divorce is finalized, the court has indefinite jurisdiction over marriages of long duration under the law. In this way, the court can continue to decide on alimony issues between the spouses and evaluate and modify its original orders as needed.

In order for alimony to be changed or reevaluated, one spouse must establish that certain factors exist that warrant such a change. Consider consulting an experienced alimony lawyer if you need to modify a permanent alimony order.

Alimony After Marriages Lasting Fewer Than 3 Years

For short-term marriages lasting under three years, there are no statutory guidelines. However, the possibility of spousal maintenance remains. Alimony is governed by a few hard and fast rules and is handled on a case-by-case basis. 

Spousal maintenance for short-term marriages will be considered based on a number of factors. Before making any decisions, it is a good idea to consider consulting a knowledgeable divorce lawyer.

How Many Years Is Alimony Paid?

The length of time for required alimony payments depends on the length of the marriage. The most commonly used standard for alimony duration is one year of alimony for every three years of marriage; however, this standard is not always followed by all states or judges. Alternatively, alimony may be terminated upon the receiving spouse’s remarriage or cohabitation. A judge may even award permanent alimony in some cases.

Also read:10 Steps to Getting a Divorce in California

Despite having a well-established divorce law that dates back to 1851, California has one of the lowest divorce rates in the country....

In most cases, marriages between three and 20 years follow certain guidelines. The judge may, however, need to deviate from the guidelines for other reasons and apply discretionary changes.

Alimony After 3 Years of Marriage

For 11 months, the recipient would receive 31 percent of the combined adjusted gross income.

Alimony After 5 Years of Marriage

For 21 months, the recipient would receive 35 percent of the combined adjusted gross income.

Alimony After 10 Years of Marriage

For 54 months, the recipient would receive 45 percent of the combined adjusted gross income.

Alimony After 15 Years of Marriage 

For 90 months, the recipient would receive 50 percent of the combined adjusted gross income.

Alimony After 20+ Years of Marriage

For 120 months, the recipient would receive 50 percent of the combined adjusted gross income.

How Much and How Long Do You Have to Pay Alimony?

Alimony is a common aspect of divorce, and it allows one partner to maintain a comfortable lifestyle until he or she can better be self-supporting. A spouse who has relied heavily on the income of the partner for support during the marriage can receive alimony, but it usually isn’t intended to support him or her fully for an indefinite period of time.

Making an Agreement for When Alimony Ends

Each marriage and divorce will offer a different answer to this question. As a rule, courts do not prefer permanent alimony arrangements but, rather, use alimony as a tool to assist the financially dependent spouse in moving forward and eventually becoming independent. As a result, courts rarely set an end date for alimony payments when couples were married for more than ten years. 

The fact that alimony does not have a predetermined end date does not, however, mean that it cannot be terminated. Alimony agreements may be terminated for a variety of reasons. When the spouse receiving alimony gets remarried, gets a better job, or comes into a significant amount of money, the payor may claim that the payee is no longer entitled to alimony. Additionally, if the former spouse is not attempting to find suitable employment or is deliberately working minimal hours (i.e., is not even on the path to becoming self-sufficient), the payor may be eligible for alimony modification or termination.


Consider consulting a divorce lawyer in your area before setting spousal maintenance expectations. Regardless of whether you are looking to modify your spousal maintenance in an existing divorce decree or trying to work out alimony for the first time, experienced divorce attorneys and child custody lawyers know how the family law courts work and can advise you accordingly. It’s best to develop an attorney-client relationship that will work for your situation.

Article by Mariia Synytska

Mariia Synytska was Content Lead at Lawrina. Mariia managed the content on the website, took interviews with lawyers and law experts, and looked for interesting topics for Lawrina's audience.

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