Interviewer: Is there a certain age after which the court does not expect you to work or that you reasonably could not work? How long does the court consider your working life to be?
Tanya: It varies. As the years have gone by, just like our economy and just like people in the work force, the age of expectation to work has gone up. A lot of people are working into their 70s now. This is for financial realities or because they want to. They do not want to sit at home and do nothing. Some cannot live the way they want to on Social Security alone.
It used to be that 65 was retirement age. The court does what is called a benefit-detriment analysis. They will look at the financial circumstances of the parties at the time the considered retirement is occurring.
I had a case also where a woman was a real estate broker but she was really only making $10,000 a year, or something really very low. She was getting approximately $15,000 of alimony. The husband was making $75,000 or $80,000 a year, and he wanted to retire. He was 65 and wanted to retire.
The court has to do the benefit-detriment analysis. Why shouldn’t this man be able to retire? But at the same time, if he retires and does not pay her alimony, she is going to be destitute on $10,000 a year.
Sometimes, the court will look at the assets. The Judge may ask for a payout. He will then lower the amount of support. If the man wanted to cut back, he can cut back. If there really is a severe need for it, the Court will try to utilize an asset to assist the payee spouse.
Sometimes, the Court will say, “No. It is perfectly fine. He can retire or she can retire.” Every circumstance is unique. The facts are unique to the parties in the case.
Interviewer: Is there a certain age range in which people tend to be awarded lifetime alimony, versus not?
Tanya: Suppose you have been married for 20 or 25 years and you are a little older. I do not want to use age alone because it is never just age. There is a case that says anything over 10 years can be permanent alimony.
Suppose you got married at age 25 and you get divorced at age 35? Should you get alimony until you are 65? Should somebody have to pay you for 30 years when you were only married for 10? Does that seem absurd?
That is not going to work. However, suppose you were married for 25 years. You got married when you were 25. You were married for 25 years, and you never worked a day in your life. Now you are 50 and you have to go out and get a job that pays enough for you to live; maybe you cannot. The likelihood of you then getting alimony until the man retires is pretty good; which is permanent. It is not a lifetime alimony award because it will be adjusted for retirement.
Each case is unique. If you are dealing with a disability, you may also have permanent alimony.
Obviously, it could be ridiculous like the case I mentioned: You got married at age 25 and now you are 35, or even 40. Why should you get alimony for more time than you were even married?
Interviewer: Before we move onto job support and custody, what are other important factors regarding alimony?
Tanya: As I said, there is alimony reform that is pending review. The idea is that it would help a lot of people if reform was in place because there would be specific formulas for alimony. There would only be a certain period of time and amount of alimony that you could have. It makes the resolution simpler.
Now we have subjective factors which give the Court wide discretion. The parameters of the alimony reform bill will help the payor more clearly understand his or her obligation and will make the payee understand the limitations of the payments. It eliminates litigation based on speculation.