Average Duration of Alimony Payments

Updated August 13, 2018

Alimony payments can help one spouse get back on his or her feet after a marriage. Figuring out the duration of spousal support payments varies and is based on the type of alimony.

Temporary Versus Permanent Alimony

There are several types of alimony in a divorce proceeding. When you are going through a divorce, a judge might order temporary or short-term alimony. However, after your divorce is complete, the judge may award permanent or long-term alimony.

  • Temporary alimony is awarded before a divorce is completed. It is a short-term payment that will last until the divorce is finalized and a payment schedule can be made. So, if the divorce takes six months, the payment will be for six months.
  • Long-term or permanent alimony is exactly how it sounds. This is awarded until the person dies, retires, or is remarried.

Length of Marriage

The duration either party will pay alimony to their spouse can vary by state. However, looking at the rules from California and Massachusetts, which seem average, you can get an idea of the duration of payments based your marriage. These are averages based on general alimony.

Five Years or Less

While every marriage is different, if you were married for fewer than five years, alimony is awarded for about 50 percent of the length of your marriage. So, for a five-year marriage, alimony could be available for 30 months or 2.5 years. Need, obligation, and health are also considered.

10 to 20 Years

A long-term marriage is generally considered more than 10 years. In this instance if one party provides a need, the duration of assistance can go up incrementally depending on the judge. For example, if you were married 15 years, spousal support might last for 60 to 70 percent of your marriage length. Therefore, support could last for as long as 10.5 years.

20 Years and Beyond

For couples that have been married this long, spousal support can be indefinite or until retirement/remarriage. This means one spouse would continue to support the other until retirement age, depending on circumstances.

Rehabilitative Alimony

Rehabilitative support allows a person to get back on his or her feet after a divorce. This type of alimony has a fixed end date that is decided by a judge based on a person's individual situation. For example, if one spouse had back surgery prior to the divorce and needs at least six months to rehabilitate to get back to work, a judge can issue six months of rehabilitative alimony. The duration of this type of alimony is based on how long that person will need to recover and be able to support themselves fully. It typically lasts a year or less.

Reimbursement Alimony

If a judge rules for reimbursement alimony, it is for the time, effort, or money one spouse put into the other's education or business. The duration of this type of alimony varies based on how long reimbursement will take. While it is difficult to come up with an average, it is easier to look at a scenario. If one spouse supported the other through a business degree for 3.5 years and was divorced shortly after, a judge might provide the supporting spouse with reimbursement alimony until the debt, what was put into the other's education, is done. Therefore, if it takes four years for the supporting to be paid back, he or she will receive alimony for four years.

Considerations for Alimony Duration

There are certain factors the court will use to decide how much and for how long one spouse must pay.

Skills, Education, and Work History

The courts consider the skills, education, and work history of both parties in the marriage. If both have comparable skills and education which results in high-paying jobs, the courts will not order spousal support. Alternatively, if there is a lack of skills, education, and work history for one of the people in the relationship, the person will be paid until he or she has received the skills and education to acquire a job.

Accustomed Lifestyle

The courts will consider the lifestyle the couple was living. Ideally, both people will remain living in the same type of lifestyle they were living in before the divorce.

Getting Spousal Support

When it comes to paying or receiving alimony after a divorce, the duration for payments is variable. It might vary based on the type, how long you were married, and the reason for the support. Additionally, finding the average for the duration of payments comes with lots of different factors.

Average Duration of Alimony Payments