How Long Do You Have to Pay Alimony?

By Bob Matteucci

If you have a long-term marriage, a substantial difference in income between you and your spouse, or other factors involved, you might have to pay alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance, for years after the divorce. It is essential to do financial planning to determine what your standard of living will be once the divorce is in your past. 

You need to know how much alimony you will have to pay and how long you have to pay alimony. If the issue of alimony is taken to the court, the judge could order alimony with an indefinite duration. Alimony with an indefinite duration is alimony that can be adjusted or stopped when the parties agree or the court orders a change. A New Mexico family law attorney can advocate for you about alimony, property distribution, and other issues in your divorce.

How Long Does Long-Term Alimony Last in New Mexico?

Typically, long-term alimony does not have a fixed duration. It is possible, for example, for the length of the alimony payment obligation to exceed the length of the marriage. Let’s say that a couple married at age 20 and divorced at age 40. The former spouse may have to pay alimony for more than 20 years until reaching retirement age. Sometimes, the Social Security and other retirement benefits replace the alimony payments for the receiving spouse.

Judges in New Mexico do not tend to order indefinite alimony unless there was a long-term marriage. However, if the party receiving spousal support has a significant disability that prevents them from working, the judge might order indefinite alimony despite the parties having a relatively short-term marriage. The judge will consider the standard of living the parties enjoyed during the marriage as one of the series of factors in determining alimony. 

A substantial difference in the earning potential of the spouses can justify an award of alimony. If one spouse is well-educated or has marketable skills but chooses not to work, the judge can impute income to that person. 

Alimony is not automatic in every divorce. If the parties have similar incomes, were married for a short time or the ability to pay their living expenses without support from the other spouse is possible, there is no need for an award of maintenance. Long-term alimony usually ends when the recipient spouse gets married, cohabits, or dies.

What is Rehabilitative Alimony?

Rehabilitative alimony typically lasts for a fixed duration, roughly equal to the amount of time needed for the recipient spouse to complete education or training to be self-supporting. For example, if the supported spouse is two years away from completing an engineering degree, the parties might agree to rehabilitative alimony for two years. If the supported spouse does not complete the education on time, the rehabilitative alimony still ends at the end of the fixed term. 

Why Would a Judge Order Transitional Alimony?

When a spouse is re-entering the workforce after a long time out of the job market, the judge might order transitional alimony of six months or a year to help the supported spouse have a temporary financial cushion. Transitional alimony is, typically for a fixed, brief period.

Whether your case involves indefinite, long-term, rehabilitative, or transitional alimony, it is possible to reduce the amount of alimony you have to pay or avoid it entirely through strategic distribution of the marital assets. Typically, a strategic distribution involves allocating more than ½ of the community assets (or less than ½ of the debts) to the spouse needing spousal support. Alimony calculations involve one spouse’s need for financial support and the other spouse’s ability to pay. If you can reduce your spouse’s debt or increase their assets above the community share level, there will be less need for alimony.

A New Mexico family law attorney can explain your options and help you craft a plan for handling alimony in your divorce case. We also provide a wide range of services such as same sex divorce, collaborative divorce, military divorce and more. Contact Bob Matteucci today.

About the Author
Bob Matteucci is a board certified family law specialist, with a statewide practice in the area of divorce and family law.