Alimony, frequently referred to as spousal maintenance by the family court, is a weekly or monthly payment from one former spouse to another after divorce. Many people who are in the midst of divorce proceedings can become confused about alimony calculations, as a skilledfamily lawyer Bloomington IL trusts might explain. This post concerns three things divorcing spouses should know about alimony calculations.

Fact 1: Alimony arrangements are not permanent

A common misperception about alimony is that it is always a permanent financial arrangement. In some cases, alimony is permanent but, in a larger number of instances, alimony is calculated for a temporary and limited time period. For instance:

  • Temporary alimony payments are calculated to a particular date: the spouse paying alimony agrees to do so until his or her ex-spouse graduates from college.
  • Permanent alimony is calculated without a known end date: the spouse paying alimony agrees to do so until his or her ex-spouse remarries or dies.


The amount an ex-spouse pays, and over what period of time he or she pays spousal maintenance, will vary. Unlike court-created formulas used for calculating how much child support must be paid, courts do not use a standard formula to calculate alimony.

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, a “universal approach” to alimony calculations would simplify the financial aspects of divorce for many divorcing couples.


It is important to know your state’s family law system to discover what type (or types) of alimony are permitted. The three types of spousal maintenance include:

  1. rehabilitative maintenance
  2. periodic maintenance
  3. permanent maintenance:
  •  Permanent alimony remains in place until the recipient dies or decides to remarry.
  • Periodic, or temporary, alimony is always temporary maintenance. Payments are calculated for a certain definite and temporary time period. For instance, the court may determine required spousal maintenance payments for the first two years after the divorce.
  • Rehabilitative spousal maintenance is required in some divorces. Let’s say one spouse has a job and his or her ex-spouse is still going to school. The family court may decide that the working spouse must continue to pay alimony until the former husband or wife is graduated and financially self-sufficient.


The family court must evaluate how former marital partners managed financial matters in the past. If both partners worked during the marriage and contributed equal sums of money to the basics of life, alimony might not be necessary. Here are some of the considerations of the court concerning alimony calculations:

  • The family court reviews each partner’s personal finances and his or her capacity to earn a living as well as any resulting impairment to earning capacity that resulted from the marriage.
  •  The court also considers total marital assets, each spouse’s individual financial requirements, and the standard of living both enjoyed in the marriage.
  •  The earnings potential of the partner requesting alimony is carefully reviewed. If the court believes that he or she is able to achieve financial self-sufficiency in the future, temporary alimony may be awarded.
  •  Other relevant factors in the case are considered. One of the partners may contend that his or her ex-spouse can support himself or herself without spousal maintenance. However, if it’s clear to the court that a former spouse can’t support himself or herself without spousal support, the court may require alimony payments on a temporary or permanent basis.

Understanding when alimony is required and how it is calculated are complex topics of discussion. We suggest that all divorcing couples consider the basis for spousal maintenance. Even if the couple no longer wants to live together, neither partner should suffer a severe reduction in his or her style of living.

Thanks to our friends and contributors from Pioletti & Pioletti for their insight into divorce practice and alimony calculations.