Divorce is a difficult event for Delaware families to go through, and the many strong emotions that take over can cloud the more practical concerns of financial security after it is all over. While alimony awards are gender-neutral in the Diamond State, more traditional marriages often place women at a financial disadvantage in divorce, making their future prospects uncertain.
Important factors to consider include whether you will qualify for alimony or spousal support, the type of support you can receive, how long you can expect to receive it and how recent tax law changes will affect its allocation. While family courts in New Castle County will decide the amount and duration of alimony payments as part of the divorce settlement, it can also help to have legal support beforehand so that you are ready for what is to come.
The types of alimony support in Delaware
A judge may award alimony based on a number of factors, including:
- the duration of the marriage
- custodial status where there are children
- financial need
- future capacity to be financially independent
as well as other considerations. Spousal support is temporary and is different from alimony, as it provides interim relief during the time when the spouses are separated and during the divorce proceedings. Alimony awards are only permanent in marriages that have lasted 20 years or more. In a marriage of shorter duration, the award cannot continue for more than half the length of the marriage.
Factors that influence the amount and duration of alimony
In Delaware, the courts view alimony as a path to eventual financial independence for the recipient, and in fact during this time they must seek employment or acquire education or skills that will help them to achieve financial independence. By law, the only exceptions to this obligation are:
- If the recipient has a severe mental or physical handicap.
- Is of an advanced age.
- Has physical custody of minor children in the home and cannot immediately seek employment.
While there is no formula for determining the amount a judge will award, there are many factors that will influence their decision. For example, the judge will look at the standard of living the couple had during the marriage, the financial or non-financial support one spouse made to the education or career goals of the other, as well as the burden that alimony may place on the paying spouse. The judge may also factor in how recent tax law changes will affect alimony payments, as a spouse may no longer list alimony as a deduction if the marriage dissolved prior to December 31, 2018.