What is Permanent Alimony?

Felicia Dye
Felicia Dye
Permanent alimony can be awarded by the court during divorce proceedings.
Permanent alimony can be awarded by the court during divorce proceedings.

Permanent alimony is a type of support that one ex-spouse is ordered to pay to another. The amount may be determined by a court or in private negotiations between the parties. Once set, this type of alimony may continue for life. There are a limited number of circumstances that may allow the support to be terminated or adjusted.

When couples divorce, it is common that one person would experience a financial disadvantage if not for some type of agreement that involves her receiving compensation from her ex-spouse. Permanent alimony is spousal support that is designed to help the disadvantaged individual support her living needs and lifestyle. In many cases, females are the recipients of this type of support, but that does not have to be the case. If a female has the higher earnings, the most financial resources, or the male was her dependent during the marriage, he may qualify for permanent alimony.

There are number of misconceptions about this type of alimony. To begin with, many people believe that some type of wrong must be proved for this type of support to be awarded. Alimony is commonly awarded despite wrongs and even in no-fault divorces. It should be noted, however, that in some jurisdictions a person may lose her entitlement to alimony if certain wrongs, such as adultery or abandonment, are proved against her.

A couple does not have to have any children during their marriage for permanent alimony to be awarded to one party. If there are children, their maintenance is generally provided through child support, which is a different form of compensation. Another myth is that permanent alimony will always be based on prenuptial agreements. Although these types of arrangement are commonly encouraged, there are circumstances that may allow for modification of their terms.

When the amount of permanent alimony is determined by a court, several factors are generally considered. Both parties are usually required to submit financial statements. The judge will assess the resources of each and the lifestyle that each was accustomed to during the marriage. She will then determine the amount that one party should pay the other so that a similar or equal lifestyle can be maintained. This does not mean that the recipient of permanent alimony will be awarded half of what the payer earns.

There is spousal support that is temporary. Permanent alimony, however, can continue for life. In many jurisdictions, the payer's obligation ends if his ex-spouse remarries or intimately cohabits with another individual for a certain period of time. The obligation may terminate upon the death of the payer in some jurisdictions, but in others the recipient may make claims against the deceased's estate. Changes in circumstances, such as a drastic income increase for the recipient or an income decrease for the payer, may also allow for termination of permanent alimony.

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Discussion Comments


My divorce was final in 1993. My x-wife by RI law was entitled to 50 percent of my retirement, but I told her I would have to die on the job before I would forfeit half of my lifetime earnings. Ultimately, she settled for 30 percent and I retired in 1995. My lawyer told me that she would receive 30 percent of my retirement for the rest of my life even though she remarried three weeks after our divorce was final. He used an equation of my 24 years as a city employee as a denominator and 25 years of marriage as a numerator. He also told me that it was no longer negotiable and I could not return to the courts for any reason.

I'm now 67 years old, have had a heart attack and seven stents in me as well as being legally deaf. My health is not good and I'm nearing the point of being unemployable. I'm currently employed part time, but even that is not paying the bills as I would hope.

To date, my ex-wife's income from that 30 percent is nearly $200,000. Oh yeah, did I mention that my lawyer told me that I would not be able to claim the 30 percent as a deduction on my federal tax's? I contacted an IRS agent who researched this issue for me last year and she told me that I could claim it as alimony and I did so last year. She also said that I could claim a modification for the last seven years of taxes, but I'm afraid to do that for fear the IRS will find a flaw in the claim and make me pay it back.

Is there any way I can re-visit the divorce settlement and stop making the payments so I can live in a somewhat sound financial environment without having to die on the job?

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    • Permanent alimony can be awarded by the court during divorce proceedings.
      By: zimmytws
      Permanent alimony can be awarded by the court during divorce proceedings.