Alimony, also known as spousal support, is the regular monetary payment to a spouse during divorce proceedings or after a divorce decree. In North Dakota, a court can issue an order regarding the amount and length of payments if the spouses cannot come to their own agreement. A spouse may be awarded one of three types of support:

  • Temporary spousal support: commence once a divorce petition is filed and end when the divorce decree is issued. 
  • Rehabilitative spousal support: made while a spouse is acquiring the education, training, and experience necessary to become self-sustaining. 
  • Permanent spousal support: has indefinite duration, as it is intended to support a spouse who does not have the means to be self-supporting.

It’s important to keep in mind that alimony payments are separate from any payments you make towards child support. Any required child support payments are calculated separately and based upon the nature of the child custody agreement.

How Do You Qualify for Alimony?

There is no set formula for determining alimony, and the court can award it to either spouse. The court will look at substantial factors, such as the financial needs and circumstances of the spouse requesting support, and whether the paying spouse can afford the support payments. Other factors include the length of the marriage, fault, financial circumstances based on property owned (and, if applicable, the income-producing capacity of the property), income and earning capacity of the spouses, as well as their physical conditions, health, and age.

How Much Alimony Can You Receive?

Under North Dakota law, there is no set limit or formula capping the amount of alimony that can be awarded to a former spouse. In determining an amount, the court will take into account the factors discussed above.   

Alimony awards can vary in amounts, and, depending on where you stand in this area of contention, can be deemed insufficient or excessive (it is estimated that spousal support awards can run upwards of $1.3 million a year in the U.S.). A common argument made by paying spouses who appeal alimony awards is that the court erred by essentially “equalizing” the ex-spouses’ disparity in incomes. But the other side of the coin is such high amounts are fairly awarded to the spouse who sacrificed earning potential by making non-monetary contributions to preserve the home and family. Regardless, alimony awards can be daunting, particularly in cases of long-term permanent spousal support, which allows couples to be perpetually connected—sometimes until death—even though they are no longer married. Whether you are seeking alimony or likely to be paying it, the potential awarded amount can be life changing and should be discussed with a lawyer.   

How Long Does Alimony Last?

The duration of an alimony award depends on whether it is temporary, rehabilitative, or permanent. As discussed above, temporary spousal support lasts only as long as the divorce proceeding and ends when the divorce decree is issued. The length of rehabilitative spousal support is the time it takes for the spouse to acquire education, training, and experience to become self-supporting. The duration of permanent spousal support, which could be long-term, hinges on what the court deems reasonable in light of the parties’ circumstances. 

How Do You Petition for Alimony?

A lawyer can help you during the difficult time of divorce by making sure you do not inadvertently waive your right to alimony. The court will not know you need spousal support unless you ask, and to avoid any consequences (subsequent paperwork and more legal fees being only the tip of the iceberg), it is best to include a request for alimony in the beginning—with your divorce petition. In addition, a lawyer can make sure you get the funds you need right away by requesting temporary spousal support while you go through your divorce. If you neglect this and ask for it later, it may not be granted retroactively. 

Where Can You Find the Right Lawyer?

The issue of alimony is a highly contentious, variable area of divorce. It is crucial to protect yourself, as well as your current and future financial situation. If you are considering filing for divorce, or have been served with divorce papers, get expert help and contact your local North Dakota family lawyer today.