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How Long Can You Expect to Pay Alimony?

  • Jul 17, 2020
  • The Harr Law Firm

Alimony spelled with wood blocksAlimony payments are a part of many divorces, and they can help one partner to continue living comfortably until they are able to better support themselves. The intent of alimony is to bridge the gap for those spouses who have largely relied on their partner’s income for support during the marriage, but is typically not intended to support them fully for an indefinite period of time. More often than not, alimony payments only last for so long. But, exactly how long is that? If you’re expecting to pay alimony after your divorce, here’s what you need to know about the typical duration of spousal support payments.

Types of Alimony

There are several different types of alimony that can be awarded during a divorce:

  1. Temporary alimony – This type of alimony is awarded during divorce proceedings. The payments will only last until the divorce is finalized and an official alimony agreement can be put into place.
  2. Permanent or long-term alimony – This type of alimony is much less common now than it once was. It is given to one partner until their death, retirement, or remarriage.
  3. Rehabilitative alimony – This is the more common type of alimony given in divorces today. It has a fixed end date set by a judge; the date is selected based on how long the judge believes the individual needs to get back on their feet.
  4. Reimbursement alimony – This form of alimony, as the name implies, is given as a reimbursement for any investment made into the other spouse’s education or business. For example, if one spouse worked to put their partner through college, and they were divorced shortly afterwards, the judge might award reimbursement alimony to the first partner until the “debt” is repaid.

The type of alimony awarded is one factor that will impact how long your alimony payments will last. If the judge awards either of the first two types of alimony, the duration of those payments is explained above. If you’re looking at payments for one of the latter two types of alimony, keep reading to learn some other factors that will impact their duration.

Equal Reimbursement

In the case of reimbursement alimony, the duration of the alimony payments is typically equal to the duration of the support received. So, using the same example as above, let’s say your spouse support you through four years of college. In most cases, this would mean that your reimbursement alimony payments would also last for four years, balancing out the amount of time and the approximate cost your ex put into supporting you.


In many relationships, one spouse is the primary income-earner while the other tends to children and household tasks. In these cases, the partner who was responsible for the care of the household often finds themselves with a large gap in their employment history. They may have even dropped out of school to care for children at home, leaving them with a lack of skills, education, and work history needed to find gainful employment after their divorce. In these cases, the person lacking in these areas will typically receive alimony until they can receive the education or training needed to find a job.

Alternatively, if both partners have comparable skills and education, and the judge determines that they are equally employable, spousal support is typically not awarded to either spouse.

Duration of Marriage

Another factor that a divorce court will look at when determining the duration of spousal support is the length of the marriage. While the final determination will vary by case (and each state has a different guideline that judges follow), these are the averages based on the length of the marriage:

  • 5 years or less – Alimony is awarded for approximately half of the length of your marriage. So, if you were married for four years, you can expect to make alimony for roughly two years.
  • 10-20 years – On average, you can expect to pay alimony for about 60 to 70 percent of the length of your marriage. So, if you were married for 20 years, your alimony will likely last between 12 and 14 years. However, this can change considerably based on individual circumstances and the judge overseeing your case.
  • 20+ years – Marriages that lasted this long are the most likely to see permanent alimony. This means you should expect to support your ex until retirement or until they pass away or remarry.

If you would like to get a better idea of how much you should expect to pay in alimony and for how long, contact one of our divorce lawyers. We’ll sit down with you and go over your case to get a better idea of what a fair alimony agreement would look like. Schedule your consultation today!