Can You Receive Alimony Indefinitely?

Interviewer: A common misconception people sometimes have is that they can get alimony and not have to do anything. However, it sounds as though there is a huge qualification process involving a lot of factors. You cannot just sit there. The court expects you to either re-educate yourself or go out and get a job. Is that right?

Tanya: That would be a reasonable expectation. That would be the right thing to do. Right now, in the legislature, there are bills for alimony reform where there would never be permanent alimony.

There are three kinds of alimony: permanent alimony, limited duration alimony and rehabilitative alimony. Permanent alimony is sort of indefinite; even though it really never is permanent. If you live until age 90, it is not as though you are paying alimony until you are 90. You pay until retirement is reasonable.

Then there is limited duration, which is a fixed number of years. It could be five years or 10 years, or whatever the fixed number is. Then rehabilitative is exactly what I was talking about before, where it is to rehabilitate you. There is a certain period of rehabilitation and then either it ends or it gets reduced for a limited duration or permanently.

Tanya: Back to what you asked: Shouldn’t the person work and not lay there? That is my personal philosophy. I believe everybody, if you have the ability to work at all, should go out and try to work.

This is because:

A) It is the right thing to do; and

B) There is a complex issue I will explain here, and I am going to be sexist. Say you have a woman who has been out of the job market for a long time. There are lawyers who will tell her, “Absolutely, do not get a job. Absolutely do not go back to work until your alimony is finished.” 100%, there are lawyers who will tell her that.

I will not do that because I think it makes for a much harder settlement. The husband is really angry. He wonders, “Why isn’t she trying to do something?” Meanwhile, she thinks she is milking the situation, which makes her a hard case.

Also, you get a woman who actually tries to get a job, but sometimes she really can’t get a great job. She might only be able to get a job for $15,000 a year. She might only be able to get a real job for $20,000 a year.

We have something called imputation of income, which means even if you are not working or not working to the level that you should be working, the court can say you have earnings of a certain amount when they do their calculations.