Alimony is financial support paid to a spouse during and after a divorce. It is separate from any child support you might have to pay due to the circumstances of child custody. If you were financially dependent on your spouse, you may be entitled to ongoing alimony payments in Delaware. However, courts typically view alimony as a rehabilitative measure and it is meant to help you while you obtain additional training, search for work, or care for a child.
Alimony is awarded on a case-by-case basis in Delaware and there is not a set formula used to calculate awards. Instead, the courts engage in a two-step evaluation. First, you must show that you:
- Are dependent on your spouse and will not receive financial support through a nuptial agreement,
- Do not have the financial resources to take care of your financial needs,
- Cannot support yourself through appropriate employment, or
- Care for a child and must delay your job search.
If you meet one of these criteria, the court will award alimony based on a series of factors. These factors include:
- Your financial resources, including both separate and marital property,
- The length of the marriage,
- Each spouse’s age and health,
- Whether you need additional job training or education to find a job, including the time commitment and related costs,
- Your standard of living during the marriage,
- Whether you contributed to your spouse’s education, training, career, or earning capacity,
- Whether you delayed education or employment opportunities while married, and
- Your spouse’s ability to provide for your needs.
The courts do not consider a spouse’s misconduct when calculating alimony.
Delaware does not have a limit or cap on alimony. Instead, the courts must weigh the factors discussed above and determine how much support is appropriate. Under certain circumstances, alimony awards can be millions of dollars (but are typically more modest).
Delaware awards alimony on both a temporary and permanent basis—including while a divorce is pending (sometimes called interim alimony). However, permanent alimony is only permitted when a couple was married for at least 20 years. For shorter marriages, alimony is limited to half the length of the marriage. (For example, a four-year marriage results in a maximum of two years of alimony.)
Again, alimony can be awarded even before a divorce is finalized. To request alimony, you should file a Petition for Support with the court. If you plan to file a motion for alimony, seriously consider hiring a lawyer before you file for divorce, since it can be difficult for the average person to calculate and negotiate alimony awards.
Additionally, an increasing number of couples are negotiating alimony in their settlement agreement. If you and your spouse can agree to a fair alimony amount, you can resolve this issue without the court’s involvement. Again, a lawyer can help you with these negotiations.
Finally, you can petition to have an alimony award modified under certain circumstances. Typically, you must show a substantial change in circumstances that merits a change in alimony payments. For example, alimony may be reduced or terminated if your ex-spouse is cohabitating with someone who provides significant financial support.
Petitioning or modifying an alimony award can be contentious and complicated. A Delaware family lawyer can help you file a motion with the court, calculate a fair alimony award, and negotiate with your spouse.