Alimony is one of the more controversial issues in any divorce. Few people enjoy feeling financially dependent on an ex-spouse, and few enjoy having to make alimony payments to an ex. However, it can be essential to reaching a fair divorce settlement and it can be crucial to many people whose divorces left them at a financial disadvantage.
One of the biggest questions clients have when considering alimony is how long the order will last. This question is highly important to both the paying and the receiving parties, but there is not one answer that fits every occasion.
Deciding whether to award alimony
Alimony is sometimes known as spousal support or spousal maintenance. It consists of a payment or payments from one ex-spouse to another. Its purpose is to provide income to a party who is left at an unfair financial disadvantage by a divorce. An alimony obligation may be agreed upon by the parties or imposed by the court. In either case, a court order makes the obligation enforceable.
When Hawaii courts are deciding whether to impose alimony, they look at a long list of factors, including the income and financial resources of each spouse, their child-raising obligations, legal arguments during the divorce and more. However, alimony is not supposed to be used as punishment for one spouse’s misdeeds. It is simply meant to provide financial support for a disadvantaged spouse.
Deciding the duration of alimony
But once the courts have decided whether to award alimony, Hawaii law gives them few guidelines for setting the order’s duration or the amount of the payments. Instead, courts have discretion to decide these matters on their own after considering the exact circumstances of the case and the individuals involved.
That said, alimony orders generally fall into three categories:
- Transitional: This is a short-term form of alimony that is intended to help the financially dependent spouse adjust to a reduced standard of living after divorce.
- Rehabilitative: This type of alimony is a temporary measure designed to provide needed income to a disadvantaged spouse while they are working toward gaining financial independence. Its duration may be set to a certain time period or it may be tied to an educational or career milestone.
- Permanent alimony: In some rare cases, a court may order alimony for the remainder of the receiving spouse’s life. One such scenario might involve a receiving spouse who is disabled.
Of course, the parties can decide on these terms themselves without waiting for the court to decide for them. When they do so, it’s important to consider all the options.