Understanding Alimony2017-10-13T19:56:51+00:00

Alimony is sometimes known as “spousal support” or “maintenance.” It is the payment of support from one spouse to another. Note that not every divorce requires the payment of spousal support. Under Rhode Island law, the stated purpose for alimony is “to provide support for a spouse for a reasonable length of time to enable the recipient to become financially independent and self-sufficient.” See §15-5-16 for the full text of the law. The judge will use his or her discretion in weighing a list of factors to determine the amount and length of alimony payments. (See Configuration of Alimony for details).

There are three types of alimony: (1) temporary, (2) short-term, and (3) long-term (permanent). Temporary alimony is granted while the divorce is pending and it will end when the divorce is final. After the divorce is final, the court may enter either no alimony, short-term alimony, or long-term (permanent) alimony. Short-term alimony may be granted for a short period of time to allow the receiving spouse to gain the necessary education or training to become financially independent. Long-term alimony (i.e. permanent) may be granted to a spouse who will never be able to become financially independent. Long-term alimony is usually reserved for marriages of long duration.

In Rhode Island, the judge will consider the following factors in determining amount of alimony:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The conduct of the parties during the marriage;
  • The health, age, station, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties;
  • The state and the liabilities and needs of each of the parties;
  • The extent to which either party is unable to support himself/herself;
  • The time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire appropriate education or training;
  • The probability of completing education or training and becoming financially self-sufficient;
  • The standard of living during the marriage;
  • The opportunity of either party for future acquisition of capital assets and income;
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay the supported spouse; and
  • Any other factor that the court finds to be just and proper.

See §15-5-16 for the full text of the law.