Alimony, also referred to as spousal support, is a rehabilitative tool intended to "provide temporary support for a spouse until he or she is able to become self-supporting." Altieri v. Altieri, 711 A.2d 1145 (R.I. 1998). There is no specific guideline to determining whether a spouse will receive alimony or how much alimony one will receive. An award of alimony is determined on a case by case basis. When determining whether a spouse is entitled to alimony, a judge evaluates the circumstances in light of the factors set forth in Rhode Island General Laws 1956 §15-5-16, with the particular goal in mind of having both parties remain as close to the standard of living they enjoyed during the marriage as possible. These factors include "the length of the marriage; the conduct of the parties during the marriage; the health, age, station, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties; and the state and the liabilities and needs of each of the parties." Wrobleski v. Wrobleski, 653 A.2d 732, 734 (R.I. 1995).
Alimony is calculated by the family court only after the property division is complete as the parties' needs will depend on the division of the marital property. In some circumstances, a court may award alimony on a temporary basis while the divorce is pending. This temporary alimony will stay in effect until your divorce trial is complete.
Typically, alimony is granted on a temporary basis, however, in certain circumstances, alimony may be awarded indefinitely. Circumstances justifying an award of indefinite alimony may include a spouse who is seriously disabled or elderly, and therefore, unable to work.
A spouse seeking alimony must bear in mind that an award of alimony causes federal income tax consequences. Alimony is taxable to the spouse who receives the alimony and is deductible by the spouse who pays alimony.
With an award of alimony, a spouse has the opportunity to build a career, advance his or her education, employment training, or other opportunities so that person may become self-supporting or self-sufficient in the future. An ideal candidate for alimony may include a spouse who supported the other in advancing their career, or a spouse whose career was put on hold due to family obligations. If you have questions concerning alimony, I encourage you to contact my office for a personal confidential consultation with me.