After a divorce, one spouse might get alimony until he or she gains the means to be adequately self-sufficient. For instance, if you took a nine-year break from the workforce to raise children, you may need a year or two to get job training or other educational credentials. Alimony can help pay for that.

However, what if your spouse barely makes ends meet as it is? Is there some way you can get the funds you need to become more independent?

Each situation is unique

There are no clear black-and-white answers because each situation is unique. If your spouse has the ability to work a higher-paying job but took a lower-paying job, it is possible that he or she would agree to alimony or that a judge would order it. The chances of that may go up if it was not a joint decision. Say that the two of you talked about how your spouse never has time to see the children and is always grouchy at home. You agreed jointly for your spouse to take a lower-paying job that was less stressful. In this case, a judge might see it as unfair to force your spouse back into stressful work, but your spouse may volunteer to do it.

On the other hand, say that your spouse came home one day and told you that he or she quit and took a lower-paying job for no good reason and then stays home playing video games much of the time and not contributing to the household. Under such circumstances, you might have a persuasive case for alimony.

Spouse’s ability to pay and your potential self-sufficiency

As you know, your spouse’s ability to pay is one of the main factors in determining alimony amounts, as is the age and health of you both and the length of your marriage. If you have advanced degrees and many current job prospects compared with your spouse, then the view may be that you have higher earning potential than your spouse, never mind the fact that you have not been working recently. In such a case, you might not get alimony.