In general, alimony is a type of financial support that is paid to a spouse after a divorce. The state of Delaware considers alimony and spousal support to be two separate forms of financial support. Thus, you should only petition for alimony if you are getting a divorce and the payments will be for after the divorce is finalized. Otherwise, you may need to petition the court for interim alimony or spousal support.

In Delaware, alimony will usually be awarded if it can be proven that one spouse was financially dependent on the other throughout the course of the couple’s marriage. Certain factors set out in Delaware state law will assist the court in determining a spouse’s eligibility for alimony, the amount of alimony that should be paid to the recipient spouse, and how long alimony should last.

To learn more about how to file a petition for alimony and whether you may be eligible to collect alimony in the state of Delaware, you should contact a Delaware family lawyer immediately for further legal advice.

How Do You Qualify for Alimony?

In general, alimony is awarded on a case-by-case basis in Delaware. However, unlike some states, Delaware state law does contain a list of explicit factors that a judge must consider when they are determining whether or not a spouse qualifies for alimony. Specifically, Delaware courts engage in a two-step evaluation process.

The first step involves the petitioning spouse demonstrating one or more of the following factors:

  • That they financially relied on the other spouse;
  • That they do not have the financial resources or ability to provide for their own needs on an independent basis;
  • That they do not have the proper job training or education to find a job that would enable them to support themselves; and/or
  • That they have care or custody over a child that will prevent them from searching and securing a career, or alternatively, will cause hardship for the child.

By demonstrating one or more of the above factors, the petitioning spouse effectively establishes that they are financially dependent on the other spouse and thus are entitled to financial support.

Once the first step is complete, the court will consider the following factors when deciding whether the petitioning spouse is eligible to receive alimony payments. This may include factors, such as:

  • The length of the divorcing couple’s marriage;
  • The age, the physical condition, and mental well-being of each spouse;
  • The couple’s standard of living during the marriage or their lifestyle;
  • The property and/or assets that the recipient spouse will own after the divorce is finalized;
  • The supporting spouse’s ability to provide for both the recipient spouse and themselves if they are ordered to pay alimony;
  • How much (if anything) the recipient spouse contributed to the household;
  • Whether the recipient spouse delayed their own career or took care of the household, so that the other spouse could pursue their own career aspirations;
  • The time and resources that the recipient spouse will need to enable them to eventually become financially independent; and/or
  • Various other factors that a judge believes merits consideration.

Lastly, it should be noted that if the petitioning spouse waived their right to alimony either before, during, or after the marriage, then they will not be eligible to receive alimony. This can happen when a petitioning spouse has signed an agreement, such as a post-nuptial or pre-nuptial contract.

How Much Alimony Can You Receive in Delaware?

Although alimony is usually granted on a case-by-case basis in Delaware and at the discretion of the family law court, Delaware state law does prescribe a set list of factors for how a judge may determine the amount of alimony that a recipient spouse can collect. Also, while this law does not contain a set formula per se, the factors it does contain can be used to create a calculation formula of sorts for alimony.

These factors that a judge may use to determine alimony were already discussed in the above section. While there is no limit or cap on alimony distributions in Delaware, the court does have discretion to decide how much alimony is appropriate and how much weight to give each of those factors in determining the amount of alimony to award a recipient spouse.

For example, the length of a marriage will affect both the amount and time that alimony payments last.

How Long Does Alimony Last in Delaware?

In Delaware, the law states that a spouse who was financially dependent on the other spouse throughout the course of their marriage can be awarded alimony. However, the amount of time that a recipient spouse can collect alimony in Delaware will depend on the length of the divorcing couple’s marriage.

If the divorcing parties were married for twenty years or longer, then there is no limit as to how long the recipient spouse can collect alimony (barring some exceptions). For instance, if the recipient spouse gets remarried, moves in with a significant other who is not the supporting spouse, or if either spouse dies, then alimony will be terminated.

Now, if the divorcing parties were married for less than twenty years, then the court will not award alimony for longer than what equates to more than half of the length of their marriage. For example, if the couple was married for fourteen years, then the recipient spouse would only be allowed to collect alimony for up to seven years according to Delaware state law.

Additionally, Delaware courts may also award spousal support before a divorce or temporary alimony for when a divorce petition is still pending. In either case, once the couple is officially divorced and all marital issues are settled, both types of support will be terminated. Instead, the receiving party will need to request standard alimony during the divorce case, so that they may collect it after the divorce is finalized.

How Do You Petition for Alimony?

As discussed above, spousal support can be awarded to the recipient spouse before a couple’s divorce is pending or even finalized. Although the recipient spouse will need to prove why their circumstances warrant spousal support, Delaware courts do award spousal support before a divorce as well as while a divorce is pending. However, to petition for either type of spousal support will require filing separate forms.

For instance, the state of Delaware is unique in that it does not use the terms “alimony” and “spousal support” interchangeably. Delaware state law defines spousal support as financial support that can be paid to a spouse when they are apart and living in separate places, but without a petition pending for divorce. In this instance, the recipient spouse will need to file specific forms, which generally include the following:

  • A Petition for Spousal Support;
  • An Information Sheet; and
  • A Financial Report for Spousal Support.

These can be found on and downloaded from the Delaware Family Court website. Also, the Financial Report form will need to be filed with the court at least seven days prior to their hearing, which is held after the spouses attend a mandatory mediation conference.

On the other hand, divorcing couples whose petition for divorce is currently pending will need to file a Motion for Interim Relief instead. This motion allows the petitioning spouse to request interim alimony and exclusive use of the marital home. Additionally, interim or temporary alimony may continue after a divorce decree is granted and until all outstanding alimony and/or marital property issues are fully resolved.

Finally, the petitioning spouse can ask the court to grant them alimony during the couple’s divorce proceedings. Again, “alimony” and “spousal support” are considered two separate forms of relief in Delaware. Delaware state law defines alimony as financial support that one spouse may be ordered to pay the other spouse during divorce proceedings for after the couple is divorced. Thus, this request must be included as part of the divorce case.

Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

Petitioning for or modifying an alimony award can be a contentious and complex battle. As previously mentioned, the rules for alimony can vary by jurisdiction and are largely contingent on the facts of an individual case. This means that each alimony case can result in a different outcome depending on where you live and the circumstances surrounding your alimony issue.

Therefore, you may want to consider hiring a Delaware family lawyer if you plan on petitioning the court for alimony during your divorce proceeding. A lawyer who has experience in handling divorce matters in Delaware will already be familiar with the relevant laws and procedures required for requesting alimony in the state. Your lawyer will also be able to advise you of your rights and protections under the applicable laws in the state of Delaware.

Additionally, your lawyer can assist you in collecting evidence to support your petition for alimony and can provide legal representation in court.

As for where you can find the right Delaware family lawyer to work on your case, you should search for a lawyer whom you feel comfortable working with and can trust that they have your best interests in mind. You can do this by using any of the following resources:

  • By performing an online search and reading reviews from previous clients;
  • Enlisting a public or private attorney referral service;
  • Contacting a non-profit organization or legal aid service; and/or
  • By visiting the website for the Delaware State Bar Association (DSBA) and clicking on the link that says, “Online Lawyer Referral Service.”

One other method that you can use to help you find the right Delaware family lawyer quickly and efficiently is by asking LegalMatch for assistance. You can register for free on the LegalMatch website where you will be asked to submit a summary of your alimony issue.

From there, LegalMatch will respond with a list of attorneys in your area who not only specialize in the proper field of law, but also will be willing to take on your case and are immediately available for a consultation.