What will I have to pay my wife in a divorce?

Updated February 21, 2017

The Centers for Disease Control reports that, based on 2009 data, 50 per cent of marriages end in divorce. With such high odds of a marriage failing, the issue of what a husband or wife will have to pay in a divorce is in the spotlight. Depending on the arrangements you make prior to divorce and how you handle the proceedings, divorce may cost you nothing or everything.


One payment you may have to make to your wife is alimony, also known as spousal support. Wives traditionally received alimony, but men also can receive spousal support. There are different forms of alimony, including temporary, rehabilitative, lump sum and permanent. How much you pay in alimony depends on your wife's ability to support herself after the divorce and the debt-to-income ratio you have. Courts consider factors such as the length of your marriage, the age of both you and your wife, how many assets you have and the standard of living you and your wife had prior to divorce, as well. There is no guarantee that a court will award alimony, and only about 10 to 15 per cent of divorces or separations involve spousal support, according to the Divorce Support website.

Child Support

If you had children during your marriage, you likely will have to pay something to your wife in child support. Child support payments may be per child, meaning that you'll pay more for each additional child you have. In calculating child support, courts look at your income and your wife's income to determine the best interest of the child. If your wife can support your children, the court may determine that child support is not necessary, even if your wife asks for the support. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that, based on 2008 survey data, the average child support payment is £182 per month.

Prenuptial Agreements

A prenuptial agreement indicates how you and your wife will divide your assets or be otherwise compensated in the event of divorce. If you have a prenuptial agreement, you'll need to pay according to the terms of the agreement. A prenuptial agreement can entitle your wife to thousands or even millions, depending on the contents. However, you decide what goes into the agreement. This means that what your wife gets is limited to what you and your wife agreed was fair. This gives you enormous control compared to court-stipulated payment, such as alimony or child support.

Court Costs

In most states, you can sue a spouse for court costs acquired maintaining or defending yourself against legal actions in the divorce. If your wife does this, you may have to pay whatever your wife's attorney has as a retainer fee.


Assuming the worst, you may have to pay your wife thousands of dollars per month. However, it is possible to remain amicable during divorce proceedings, and your wife won't necessarily request alimony or child support even if she is entitled to it. Your best bet in regard to protecting your assets during divorce is to be respectful, because this makes it less likely that your wife will seek additional damages and payments.

States don't require you to hire an attorney for a divorce, and if you file all the required forms and pay all necessary fees, your divorce is legal even if you don't use a lawyer. Going without an attorney in a divorce is not the best idea, but you can save by doing what you can on your own.

Every state has different regulations for divorces and related payments. You'll need to check the regulations for your region to get an accurate picture of your final payment amount based on current statutes.

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About the Author

Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website,, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.