Alimony may be determined by a number of factors, including the ability to pay, ability to earn and the ability to self-support, according to About.com. The length of the marriage and the standard of living while married may also come into play.
The ability to pay a spouse's alimony is usually the first thing that is looked at to determine payment, claims About.com. The court looks at the net income and often is more concerned with the support of the spouse than voluntary debt. The ability to earn is also taken into consideration. This doesn't necessarily mean this amount is currently earned, but it is how much a person could potentially earn.
The ability to self-support is another thing taken into consideration when calculating alimony, explains About.com. This means that a spouse has skills that are marketable, and they can work outside of the home. This is different from someone who has skills and refuses to look for work. In this case, the court often limits the amount and length of alimony. Standard of living is also considered when calculating payments for alimony, and the courts do what they can to maintain that standard. A court also can consider the length of the marriage, and they may choose to not extend alimony to spouses who do not have children and who were not married for a significant amount of time.