When judges award alimony—also called spousal support—they look at a variety of factors to determine if alimony is warranted and the amount that should be paid. One of those factors is the length of the marriage. The majority of the time, a judge will only order alimony when the couple has been married for a long time (e.g. a decade or more). However, even if you were only married for a few years, it may still be possible to get alimony from your spouse. Here are two options available to you.
Rehabilitative alimony is support awarded to one spouse who needs time after the divorce to get back on his or her feet. The spouse's financial need is generally the result of a temporary issue and the person is fully expected to be self-sufficient after a short time. For example, one spouse takes time off work to care for a sick family member but is expected to return to their duties within six months. The judge may order the other spouse to pay alimony for those six months until the person begins working again.
This type of alimony may be awarded regardless of how long you were married to your ex. However, the maximum length of time you can receive this type of support is 5 years, though it may be renewed at the end of the expiration period if you suffer an unexpected setback or are still in the process of becoming self-supporting and your spouse can afford to continue making the payments.
Like all other types of alimony, payments will end when the support order expires, you or your ex dies, or you remarry. The amount may be changed due to life events, such as your spouse getting a raise or losing his or her job.
Another type of alimony you may be eligible for is bridge-the-gap (or simply gap) alimony. This type of spousal support is similar to rehabilitative alimony, except the focus is on helping the eligible spouse transition from being married to being single or to cover a specific type of expense. For instance, if you and your ex are required to sell the home and split the proceeds, the judge may order your ex to pay alimony to cover expenses you incur moving from the home to an apartment (e.g. rent and utilities).
However, gap alimony differs from rehabilitative alimony in one critical area: neither the amount nor duration can be modified. So even if your ex won the lottery the day after the judge put the order in place, you're unlikely to get more money. Additionally, the support order will end if you or your spouse passes away or you remarry.
For more information about these and other alimony options available to you, contact an alimony attorney.