Average Duration of Alimony Payments

Marcelina Hardy, MSEd, BCC
Divorce decree with gavel

Knowing the average duration of alimony payments can help you plan and get yourself back on your feet. When you are facing a divorce, you may wonder how you will ever make ends meet since your spouse made up much of the household income.

The Purpose of Alimony Payments

Alimony is money one spouse is ordered to give another during separation and for some time after the divorce is complete. Alimony helps the ex-spouse continue living the same lifestyle he or she is accustomed to until he or she is able to make enough to live comfortably.

Spousal Support in History

In the past, husbands were more likely to pay ex-wives after a divorce because it was normal for the wife not to seek higher education or a career so she could stay home with the children. However, when the husband left, the woman was left with children to support with no job, skills, or education. The husband was ordered by the court to provide a portion of his income to his ex-wife so that she could continue to live like she did during the marriage.

Spousal Support Now

Now, the amount spousal support has decreased because both women and men are seeking education and careers. More women are being ordered to pay spousal support to their ex-husbands. However, many women still do decide to stay home with their kids and take care of the family at the cost of their careers.

Courts Consideration for the Average Duration of Alimony Payments

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

Skills, Education and Work History

The courts will look at the skills, education and work history of both people 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 that the couple was living. Both people will remain living in the same type of lifestyle they were living in before the divorce. The judge will order that the spouse be given money to pay for the mortgage or other living expenses.

Length of Marriage

How long you were married is another factor considered in deciding the amount and average duration of alimony. If you were married for many years, it will take much more time to get back on your feet if you let go of your skills and career to take care of your family.

What is the Average Duration of Alimony Payments?

Short-Term or Temporary Alimony

You will receive monetary help from your ex-spouse so that you can either find a job or find a better one. This also includes time to get a degree or other skills you need to make enough money to live comfortably.


This monetary contribution is for those who have been in a long marriage and the courts feel that the spouse may never be able to make the amount that the other spouse was bringing in.


If you remarry, the courts may expect your new spouse to provide you with the level of support your ex-spouse has given you. If you complete your education or skills training, the courts may find that this is enough for you to take care of yourself and end payments. If you are in a job and receive a promotion in which your salary increases, you may lose your spouse's monetary contributions.

The Combination of Child Support and Alimony

Child support and alimony are separate issues. If you have children, you may receive both forms of assistance so you can care for yourself and your children. Both of these are ordered by the courts so you can continue to live comfortably with your children. .

Average Duration of Alimony Payments