Alimony, or spousal support, used to be a routine aspect of divorce. Ancient Egyptian, Greek and Hebrew civilizations established the tradition and the practice continues today. 

If you are facing divorce, you should know your state’s statutes and guidelines as they vary greatly. You may be reluctant to seek support, but before making a decision, you need answers to a few important questions. 

What is alimony for? 

In cases where one spouse has been financially dependent on the other, spousal support can allow both parties to maintain the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage. It is often the case that one spouse will exit the marriage with significantly more property or earning ability than the other. If leaving your marriage will leave you at a considerable financial disadvantage, spousal support can give you time to become financially independent, establish a career and improve your earning potential. 

How much may the award be? 

Courts award alimony and determine an amount based on many factors. A judge may consider the annual income of each spouse, the property division agreement and the length of the marriage. Special circumstances may also come into play. For example, you may have put off your education to work while your spouse earned an income-enhancing degree, or you may be unable to work full time while caring for your mutual children. 

How long can spousal support last? 

If a judge awards interim support, it will last only until divorce proceedings become final. Temporary support may vary, but in Delaware it should last only half as long as the marriage lasted. For example, a four-year marriage may result in two years’ of spousal support, but no more. 

There are exceptions. A marriage that lasted longer than 20 years may lead to permanent spousal support, with no court-ordered end date. However, in most cases, you are likely to forgo continued spousal support when you enter into another marriage or begin living with another partner.