All about Alimony

What is it?

Alimony actually comes in different forms. Most people are familiar with the payments that the court orders a wealthier spouse to make to a less well-off spouse following a divorce. This is called permanent alimony. There is also temporary alimony which is support given while the divorce is pending and rehabilitative alimony which are payments made long enough for the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. Rehabilitative alimony can help the less wealthy spouse to receive the education or training needed to produce his or her own income.

Who gets it?

Whether or not you will receive alimony depends on the laws in your state and what the courts have determined. Each state can consider different factors to determine if one spouse should receive support. The courts generally have discretion to decide what would be fair under the circumstances. In the past, women were most often the recipients of spousal support but men can get alimony too. The most important factor that the courts consider is probably the relative wealth of the parties and their ability to support themselves.

When deciding whether to award alimony, many courts will also consider misconduct by the parties. Adultery by the person who is seeking alimony payments could be part of the court’s consideration. Even in states that only allow divorces on no-fault grounds (meaning you do not need to show that your spouse did anything wrong in order to get a divorce) fault by one of the parties is often a factor when determining whether alimony payments should be made and how much. Although the purpose of alimony is to prevent the divorce from causing a financial injustice to one party, some courts may view alimony as a way to compensate a spouse for a wrong that was done to them.

How much?

The amount of alimony will depend on the financial standing of the parties and many other factors. Under many state laws, there are certain factors that a court must consider when they make an award of alimony. Many states consider the following factors; the age, health, and financial condition of the spouse seeking support, the training or education needed for that spouse to become self-sufficient and how long it would take, the standard of living that the spouse is accustomed to, the length of the marriage, and the ability of the paying spouse to support himself or herself while also supporting the spouse. Courts generally have a great deal of discretion in determining the amount of alimony.

How long?

How long payments will be made depends on the type of alimony involved. Temporary alimony is meant to last until the divorce is final. Rehabilitative alimony is provided long enough for the recipient-spouse to become self-sufficient. The court usually determines in advance how long it thinks this will take. Permanent alimony could be ordered to continue indefinitely. Permanent alimony usually stops if the recipient remarries or if the spouse who is paying dies, but that is not always the case. Sometimes the estate of the deceased will still be required to pay the spouse. In general, when the financial circumstances or other conditions change for either party the parties can seek a modification of the alimony decree.

What else should I know?

Some other things to know about alimony are the tax consequences and the common problems that arise. Alimony is taxable income for the person who receives it and is deductible for the person who pays. A prerequisite to receiving alimony is that the parties must live apart. After all, the purpose of alimony is to help the recipient-spouse to pay for his or her living expenses. If the couple lives together then this is unnecessary. Therefore, people must avoid the mistake of living with their former spouse and still considering the payments alimony for tax purposes.

Although many court orders for the payment of alimony are complied with without incident, it is not uncommon for conflicts to arise over the payment of alimony. Disputes often arise about the amount of alimony due and whether or not certain payments were made. These conflicts can be avoided by keeping records of payments made or alimony received. Receipts should be requested for payments made in cash. Records should be kept for at least three year for tax purposes and perhaps longer in case other disputes arise.

DISCLAIMER: This site and any information contained herein are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Seek competent legal counsel for advice on any legal matter.

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