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The Divorce Encyclopedia

Term Definition Quantity - in divorce usage, the sum as opposed to the duration of alimony.
Application in Divorce How much and for how long are the two unknowns in the divorce equation calculation of alimony, which is spousal support. The amount and the duration may be functions of each other; that is, a spouse may agree to receive more for a shorter period of time or less for a longer period of time. In general, courts entertain actions to change the terms and conditions of alimony -- quantity and duration -- based on the changing circumstances of both former spouses. For example, the former wife who wins big on the lottery may hear from her former husband who has become destitute following his layoff from XYZ Co. because he can argue changing circumstances now make his alimony payments an unreasonable burden. Unlike property distribution, which is generally set in stone, but like child support, the terms and conditions of alimony are said to be modifiable. In this, the term quantity sometimes comes into play. In the modifiable arrangement, the divorce order may specify how much is to paid, but not for how long. In the nonmodifiable routine, the divorce decrees fixes both amount and duration.

Each routine, modifiable and nonmodifiable, has advantages and disadvantages to payor and recipient of alimony; in general, modifiable alimony routines are more common.

Although husbands who pay it may feel otherwise, alimony is not damages for a failed marriage. Beginning in the 1970s, courts began to realize that alimony should is rehabilitative for the nonworking spouse whose contributions to the marriage did not lend themselves to a dollar-and-cents calculation. Coincidentally, this happened at the same time most jurisdictions followed the lead of California in liberalizing divorce laws.

To determine the quantity and duration of alimony -- the how much and for how long -- courts consider factors that include the need of the spouse, his or her ability to pay, the length of the marriage, the lifestyle of the couple when married, and the age and health of both spouses.

It should be remembered that spouses sometimes opt for a single lump-sum payment.

See also Lump Sum Alimony.

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