Permanent alimony is financial support paid from one party to another after a divorce. Unlike other types of alimony or spousal support, permanent alimony is usually paid until one spouse dies. As the name implies, permanent (or lifetime) alimony means that even if the paying spouse retires and lives on social security, they must continue paying alimony to the receiving spouse.

What states still have permanent alimony?

Permanent alimony is no longer applicable in most states. Now that women can become educated and enter the workforce, it is usually unnecessary to award alimony for life. Instead, most states have modified permanent alimony to allow the receiving spouse time to become financially independent, at which time the payments will cease.

States that still have permanent alimony are New Jersey, Connecticut, Vermont, North Carolina, West Virginia, Florida, and Oregon. In some of these states, bills and motions have been presented to end the practice of permanent alimony—in favor of modifications in rehabilitative, temporary, or reimbursement alimony.

Who qualifies for permanent alimony?

Permanent alimony was created to support wives whose main contribution to the marriage and family was staying home and raising the children, rather than getting an education past high school and starting a career. Today, this situation is much less the norm, although permanent alimony is awarded when it is unlikely that one spouse will be able to join the workforce through job training or education. This type of alimony is usually used in situations when one spouse is disabled or seriously ill and cannot work.

The main factors in a judge’s decision for awarding permanent alimony are:

The length of the marriage — This factor is often indicative of how long the receiving spouse has been out of the workforce, and without the burden of financially supporting themselves.

The contribution of one spouse to the career or lifestyle of the other

Any significant financial inequity

Most cases in which permanent alimony is awarded are those that involve a longer duration of the marriage; in some states, that could take 30 years. However, if one spouse becomes disabled in a shorter marriage, permanent alimony may still be awarded.

How is permanent alimony calculated?

There are many factors that determine the type and amount of alimony, and those factors vary according to state. However, the common factors in most states are the ability to pay, the duration of the marriage, the ability of both spouses to work, the contributions to the marriage, the ages of the spouses, and the physical and emotional wellbeing of both parties.

Usually, a prenuptial agreement is taken into consideration when determining spousal support. This agreement offers conditions for alimony that are already agreed upon.

Permanent alimony can be modified if the circumstances of either party significantly change. In most states, permanent alimony payments stop if the receiving spouse remarries. Also, if the receiving spouse gets a job with significantly more income or inherits a significant amount of money, permanent alimony can be reviewed, and payments can be lessened or stop entirely.

In cases when the payee is not remarried but cohabitating, some states that still award permanent alimony also end payments. In some cases, if the payer loses their job, alimony payments can stop or decrease as well.

How will alimony affect my taxes?

Like other types of spousal support, permanent alimony is calculated as income. If you are receiving alimony, you will be taxed on it. And if you are paying alimony, it is tax-deductible.

Summary

Permanent alimony was created at a time when families usually had one financial contributor and one homemaker. As women have joined the workforce and become increasingly more educated, the need for permanent alimony has significantly decreased, prompting many states to entirely end the practice.

Permanent alimony can still only apply in limited circumstances. However, there are still people who exit long marriages after being out of the workforce for many years to take care of children or support the growing career of their spouse. For these individuals, permanent alimony could be the only way to remain financially stable.

In certain circumstances, it is possible to change alimony payment amounts, as well as the type of support paid. Typically, the remarriage of a payee or a significant depreciation in the income of the payer can reduce or entirely stop payments. Alimony can be a difficult legal battle, so your best plan may involve hiring a lawyer, who could help you come to an agreement or present your specific case to a family law judge.