Published on

Guide on How Long Do I Have to Pay Alimony

In the United States, alimony is referred to as spousal financial support. Courts determine how long and how much one spouse needs to pay the other spouse. Alimony helps the partner who made less money during the marriage maintain the lifestyle they were used to.

Alimony types vary by state. There are several types of alimony the court can award. Learn about the different types of alimony to know how long you have to pay. There are a few types of alimony.

Types of Alimony

Permanent alimony

In most cases, alimony continues until the receiving spouse remarries or passes away.

Temporary alimony

As long as the divorce is pending, the judge will order this type of alimony. In the final judgment, temporary alimony transitions to permanent alimony, if permanent alimony is awarded.

Reimbursement alimony

When an ex-spouse lends money to the receiving spouse for college education or vocational training, and the receiving spouse’s earning power increases because of the training, the receiving spouse may have to pay back what was borrowed.

Rehabilitative alimony

Alimony can continue for as long as it takes for the receiving spouse to financially recover and become self-sufficient.


Financial assistance is awarded for a specific period of time so that the recipient can learn a skill or gain the education necessary to increase their earning potential.

How Long Do You Have to Pay Alimony After a Divorce?

Alimony is usually paid monthly, but it can also be paid in one lump sum. Your alimony payment schedule depends on how the court sets it up. Either you and your ex-spouse can negotiate the time limit, or the court can decide. Usually, alimony is paid until one spouse remarries or one spouse dies. It is rare to terminate alimony unless both parties agree.

Also read:How to Win a Divorce Case: 6 Tactics for Lawyers

For couples going through a divorce, the process is never a walk in the park. It is emotionally challenging and extremely draining for...

If you are ordered to pay alimony, a judge will also consider how long you were married. Usually, the longer the marriage, the longer the alimony must be paid. If couples are unsure about the rules in their state, they should speak to a family law attorney and associates.

In the case of a short marriage, alimony will have a limited duration – if it is given at all. If you have been married for more than ten years, it gets more complicated, and you may be forced to pay alimony indefinitely unless the court modifies it. Here are a few examples of when the court may modify an alimony judgment:

  • Changing the needs of the recipient
  • The ability of the ex-spouse to pay alimony
  • Each spouse’s age
  • Each spouse’s health factors

If any of the factors listed above cause you to want to change the alimony agreement, contact an attorney to see if you have a legitimate basis for modifying the alimony judgment.

Short-term marriage

The length of a marriage is another factor a divorce court will consider when determining spousal support. 

The final determination of alimony will vary by the case, and each state has different guidelines. However, for short-term marriages, alimony will often be awarded for approximately half the amount of time the marriage existed.  So, for example, if you were married for three years, the alimony award is likely to be payable for about one and a half years. 

Long-term marriage

If you were married for 10-20 years, typically, you will have to pay alimony for about 60 to 70 percent of the length of your marriage. So, for example, if you were married for 20 years, your alimony will likely last between 12 and 14 years. It can, however, differ considerably based on your particular circumstances and the judge overseeing your case.

Marriages lasting 20 years or more are more likely to receive permanent alimony. Therefore, you should expect to support your ex until retirement, remarriage, or death.

When You’re the One 

To pay alimony

When it comes to alimony, you don’t always have to leave it up to the judge. It’s a sure-fire way to increase the cost of divorce to go to trial with your spouse on any dispute. A lawyer is usually necessary to guide you through the trial process, including gathering the right kind of evidence and preparing for the hearing.

You and your spouse may agree on alimony as part of the divorce decree or judgment. If alimony payments can be changed in the future, you can agree on temporary support payments. Divorce mediation negotiations outside of court guided by a neutral third party can be helpful if you’re having trouble reaching an agreement. You can even mediate online. When you can settle your divorce issues on your own, you can save on lawyers’ fees and reach a quicker resolution.

To receive alimony

If you are the spouse receiving alimony, you may be wondering how long can you get alimony? As long as you were financially dependent on your spouse during the marriage, the judge can order your spouse to pay you alimony. The following is evidence that you were “dependent”:

  • Your spouse supported you financially.
  • Your property (including marital property and material belongings) is not enough to meet your needs. Your health prevents you from working, or you can’t work because you care for a child whose condition makes it “inappropriate” for you to work.

There are still many factors a judge will take into account when deciding whether you will get alimony and how much. 

Do you need legal assistance?Find the right lawyer in your area.

How Is the Amount of Alimony Calculated?

Usually, state laws specify the factors judges take into account when deciding whether or not to award alimony, as well as the amount and duration of the payments. The rules for temporary support during a divorce differ from those for post-divorce alimony.

Considerations when awarding post-divorce alimony

After a divorce, judges generally must decide whether one spouse needs support and whether the other spouse is able to pay that support. When making that decision, judges should consider a number of factors, such as:

  • During the marriage, the standard of living of the couple, and their ability to maintain a similar lifestyle after their divorce;
  • Income, assets, and debts of each spouse;
  • The amount each spouse will receive when their property is divided;
  • Whether one spouse was unemployed for a period of time while caring for the family and/or parenting minor children (biological or through adoption), and therefore has a lower earning capacity due to a lack of employability and transferable skills;
  • Marriage length;
  • Age and health of each spouse, and any disability;
  • A spouse’s efforts to train, educate, or advance their career; and
  • Any other factors the judge deems fair.

When deciding whether to award alimony, many states allow (or even require) judges to take into account any history of domestic violence or other misconduct by one or both spouses. However, there is one factor that is generally ignored: which spouse filed for divorce first. When you file for divorce, you have the right to request spousal support regardless of salary. If your spouse initiated the divorce, you might ask for alimony (usually by filing a “counter” petition or complaint).

If you’re not incredibly wealthy, you probably know that it’s nearly impossible to maintain separate households at the same standard of living as a couple did while married and living together. This is particularly true now that more and more divorced parents share custody of their children.

As a result, both former spouses will likely have to adjust after divorce. The judge might determine that if you’re the one ordered to pay support, you could earn more than you do now. If you only work part-time, you may need to look for a full-time position at a new workplace.


A final divorce judgment or other court order may include an agreement between you and your ex on the issue of spousal support. You may go back to court if your ex is not paying court-ordered spousal support. When you file a “show cause” motion, the court will hold a hearing to determine why your ex isn’t following the terms of the order and what the judge can do to enforce it.

Various tools are available to the family law courts to enforce alimony payments, and a deadbeat spouse can face fines and penalties for not following an alimony order. If the spouse has missed alimony payments, the judge may order him or her to make them up retroactively.

Article by Megan Thompson

Megan Thompson is a legal writer at Lawrina. Megan writes about different law practice areas, legal innovations, and shares her knowledge about her legal practice. As a graduate of the American University's Washington College of Law she is an expert of law in Lawrina's team and has a slight editing touch to all content that is published on the website.

Thank You! Welcome on board
We use cookies to improve our website's work and deliver better services.
Our use of cookies
Upgrade the manual re-reading of agreements with Loio's AI-driven Highlights. Be in full control over every editing decision, but have the power of machine learning analysis by your hand. Turn on the Highlights tool whenever you need an extra check of your document's most essential details.
These cookies collect information that is used to help Us understand how Our Site are being used or how effective Our marketing campaigns are, or to help Us customize Our Site for You. We use Google Analytics to recognize You and link the devices You use when You visit Our Site or Service on Your browser or mobile device, login to Your User Account on Our Site, or otherwise engage with Us.
Communication services
These cookies collect information that is used to help Us to facilitate the interaction with You on Our Site. We also use those cookies to improve customer service by maintaining contact with visitors of Our Site through Intercom chat.
Ad Services
We and Our third-party partners may also use cookies and tracking technologies for advertising purposes. These third-party services collect information about Your use of Our Site over time so that they may play or display ads on devices You may use, and on other websites, apps, or services.