Alimony is an award that is made by the court ordering one spouse to pay the other spouse monies for that spouse's own maintenance and benefit. Typically it is awarded to one spouse who hasn't been out in the workforce for several years and has no skills transferable to the working marketplace.
Specifically Alimony is set forth in R.I. General Laws 15-5-16 which extensively identifies the criteria the court may consider and the criteria the court must consider when making alimony awards. It is set out here ,in pertinent part, as to alimony for the convenience of all readers.
§ 15-5-16 Alimony and counsel fees – Custody of children. – (a) In granting any petition for divorce, divorce from bed and board, or relief without the commencement of divorce proceedings, the family court may order either of the parties to pay alimony or counsel fees, or both, to the other.
(b) In determining the amount of alimony or counsel fees, if any, to be paid, the court, after hearing the witnesses, if any, of each party, shall consider:
(i) The length of the marriage;
(ii) The conduct of the parties during the marriage;
(iii) The health, age, station, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties; and
(iv) The state and the liabilities and needs of each of the parties.
(2) In addition, the court shall consider:
(i) The extent to which either party is unable to support herself or himself adequately because that party is the primary physical custodian of a child whose age, condition, or circumstances make it appropriate that the parent not seek employment outside the home, or seek only part-time or flexible-hour employment outside the home;
(ii) The extent to which either party is unable to support herself or himself adequately with consideration given to:
(A) The extent to which a party was absent from employment while fulfilling homemaking responsibilities, and the extent to which any education, skills, or experience of that party have become outmoded and his or her earning capacity diminished;
(B) The time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop marketable skills and find appropriate employment;
(C) The probability, given a party's age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming self-supporting;
(D) The standard of living during the marriage;
(E) The opportunity of either party for future acquisition of capital assets and income;
(F) The ability to pay of the supporting spouse, taking into account the supporting spouse's earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, debts, and standard of living;
(G) Any other factor which the court expressly finds to be just and proper.
(c) For the purposes of this section, "alimony" is construed as payments for the support or maintenance of either the husband or the wife.
(2) Alimony is designed to provide support for a spouse for a reasonable length of time to enable the recipient to become financially independent and self-sufficient. However, the court may award alimony for an indefinite period of time when it is appropriate in the discretion of the court based upon the factors set forth in subdivision (b)(2)(ii)(B). After a decree for alimony has been entered, the court may from time to time upon the petition of either party review and alter its decree relative to the amount and payment of the alimony, and may make any decree relative to it which it might have made in the original suit. The decree may be made retroactive in the court's discretion to the date that the court finds that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred; provided, the court shall set forth in its decision the specific findings of fact which show a substantial change in circumstances and upon which findings of facts the court has decided to make the decree retroactive. Nothing provided in this section shall affect the power of the court as subsequently provided by law to alter, amend, or annul any order of alimony previously entered. Upon the remarriage of the spouse who is receiving alimony, the obligation to pay alimony shall automatically terminate at once.
On various occasions I've noted that attorneys equate an "education" with the ability to get a job in the marketplace or to continue maintenance of their life after divorce without assistance, simply because a spouse may have an associate's degree or a college degree. This analogy doesn't quite work however. It could well be that, as in most cases, the wife would forego opportunities for jobs and education either to raise a child or because it was necessary to be a homemaker or even because that is what the husband wanted.
If you are a wife considering divorce or are already in the process of divorce and your income either is non-existent or is dwarfed by your husband's and you do not already have a professional job with obvious prospects for advancement, it is a good idea to put together a rehabilitation plan designed to improve your skills and get you into a marketable area of the workforce with a realistically projected time frame in which you can achieve definite goals. Upon doing so, you will have at least an arguable basis that you are (or should be) entitled to rehabilitative alimony.
<p><a href="http://www.chrispearsall.com/">Christopher A. Pearsall, Esquire</a><br /><a href="http://www.pearsall-law-associates.com">PEARSALL LAW ASSOCIATES</a><br />571 Pontiac Avenue<br />Cranston, RI 02910<br />Phone: (401) 354-2369</p>
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<p>* The Rhode Island Supreme Court licenses all lawyers in the general practice of law and has no procedure for recognition of specialty in any area of law.</p>