A wife is often awarded spousal support, or alimony, in divorce proceedings if she is a non-wage earning spouse or the lower wage-earning spouse, according to FindLaw. Courts have broad discretion in determining alimony eligibility, length and amount. Laws differ by state and outcomes are on a case-by-case basis.
Many states have spousal support statutes that are based on the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, explains FindLaw. This act mandates judges to consider a myriad of criteria in alimony award decisions, but leaves them broad discretion. The act calls for judges to consider the age, financial, physical and emotional states of each spouse. Further, it requires judges to determine a reasonable amount of time for the receiving spouse to become financially independent, which is a critical element in determining the length of the alimony payments. The standard of living during the marriage and the length of the marriage are also key considerations. Judges must also limit alimony awards to amounts that are affordable for the paying spouse.
Some alimony awards and agreements have a specific payment termination date, FindLaw notes. Alimony court orders that do not include termination dates continue until the court rules that alimony payments are no longer necessary. Alimony payments generally end when the recipient remarries. Alimony payments do not necessarily end upon the death of the payer. Judges can order payments to continue from the estate or life insurance proceeds.