Permanent alimony is maintenance paid to the lesser-earning spouse until the death of the payor or the death or remarriage of the recipient. Almost always the recipient is a stay-at-home mother who has been out of the workforce for many years.
Divorce courts typically no longer order permanent alimony, unless the couple arranges for that in a divorce or marriage agreement. Usually the divorce court awards rehabilitative alimony, which is intended to be for a set period of time. This allows the lesser earning spouse to get back on his or her feet financially.
When the divorce court awards permanent alimony, the award normally is intended to continue indefinitely. The couple is can negotiate a permanent alimony award, or provide for alimony in a prenuptial agreement or a postnuptial agreement.
Although an end date is not specified, it’s possible to petition the divorce court to modify alimony if there is a major change in circumstances. Unless otherwise specified in a written agreement between the spouses, the amount of alimony can be altered up or down, depending on changes in the circumstances, such as a significant raise in pay, inheritance, retirement or loss of job.
Permanent alimony generally stops when the receiving spouse remarries or either spouse dies. In some states permanent alimony may stop when the recipient cohabitates, which means the recipient is sharing living expenses with another person.Typically divorce courts make some general assumptions for short and long term marriages.
For shorter marriages, the court assumes that each spouse probably has the same ability to provide for him or herself as before the marriage, and is still independent and able to be self-supporting again within a short period of time.
The length of marriage is a major factor in court’s determination of alimony when the couple cannot agree. Although divorce laws vary from state to state, courts are more likely to order extended or permanent alimony for marriage that last ten years or longer. The court also considers earning capacity, property division and debt received, age and health, contribution as a homemaker, and contribution to one spouse’s education or career.