Paycheck Chronicles

Mail Call: Alimony Payments

Divorce is an economic mess, no matter how you look at it.  It is more expensive to run two households than one, and there are a host of other ways in which divorce can be hard on the budget.  Alimony, or maintenance payments, are designed to help the lower-earning spouse to bridge the time until they are able to be self-sufficient, or to help maintain a standard of living experienced during the marriage.

A reader writes in to ask about calculating alimony.  I've changed the details a bit to provide more privacy, but the answer is still the same:

Dear Kate,

I am an E7 who is getting a divorce.  How do I calculate how much alimony I should pay in a divorce?  I currently earn about $84,000 a year, with allowances, and she is currently earnings about $40,000 per year.



I am not a lawyer or a divorce mediator, but I do know a few things about divorce.  (Besides that it is a mess.)
Dear RKJ,

Alimony (often called maintenance payments) is decided either via agreement/mediation between the two divorcing parties, or through a court judgement.  It is faster and easier to come to agreement yourselves.  There are no set guidelines because alimony is a very personal thing.

If you ask a judge to have alimony calculated,  he or she will consider the following things:

  • each person's current income and future earning potential
  • any other income, including military allowances
  • career and educational support provided by either partner during the marriage
  • the length of the marriage
  • whether one partner is at fault in the divorce
  • the absence of one spouse from the workforce due to mutual consent or the requirements of the other spouse's employment
  • whether child custody arrangements will impact the earnings potential of either spouse
  • the age of each spouse
  • any other factors that might affect future earnings or economic situations
While alimony used to be relatively automatic and permanent, that is no longer true.  Judges may award a lump-sum payment, a temporary alimony payment that lasts for a set period of time (perhaps until children reach a certain age), or alimony specifically designed to help a spouse through education and training to become self-supporting.

A reputable divorce lawyer should be able to let you know what sort of alimony has been awarded in similar cases.

In addition, do not forget that military retirement is considered a marital asset and can be divided in a divorce.

While I have not answered your question, I hope that this information helps.  I would recommend that you retain an attorney experienced in military divorce.

Good luck to you,


It seems like my answers are always a million times longer than the questions.  I have often been accused of talking too much, I guess this is just another example of that same tendency.

As you can see, there are a lot of factors in determining the amount and duration of any maintenance payments.  Military spouses often give up careers to move around with their active duty partners, and are more likely to be stay-at-home parents if there are children involved.  This complicates the alimony picture even further.

It is essential that both parties retain experienced legal professionals in order to work out a fair and equitable agreement.

Go ahead, comment, I can already hear the protests!



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