Alimony or spousal support is a monthly payment made by one spouse to another in accordance with either a settlement agreement or a court decision. The purpose of alimony is to correct any unfair economic effects caused by a divorce, such as when a stay-at-home parent suddenly needs a source of income after the divorce but has never held a job. Spousal support is generally issued in connection with cases involving divorce or legal separation. Also known as alimony, spousal support is where one spouse pays the other ex-spouse a certain sum of money, usually on a monthly basis. Courts may require this in instances where one party is much more financially stable than the other, and the other party needs assistance in beginning life after the divorce or separation. Spousal support is issued on a case-by-case basis, and each case will be different in terms of the spousal support analysis. In most cases, only persons who have been involved in a marriage of a longer duration (usually over 5 years) are qualified for spousal support. Also, the court will take into account several factors when making the support determination, including:
• The earning capacity of each spouse
• The assets and property owned by each person
• Whether one party is significantly involved in debt
• Whether the parties were engaged in a shared business
• Each party’s contribution to the relationship (for instance, as a homemaker, or in terms of joint careers/education)
• Whether the parties have worked out spousal support provisions in a prenuptial agreement
• Various other factors, such as mental and physical health conditions
• Certain factors can disqualify a person from child support, such as a history of abuse or a history of certain charges on one’s criminal record.
Spousal support orders that are issued by the court are final and enforceable by law. However, they can sometimes be altered due to unique or special circumstances that become present later on. An example of this is where the spouse receiving support payments begins cohabiting with another partner who begins supporting them financially. Another example is where one party is experiencing extreme hardship. Spousal support can also be terminated for various reasons. It is usually ordered after a divorce when either the spouse mutually agrees on the payments or when the judge looks at all the relevant factors and decides that alimony or spousal support is necessary to support one spouse. Spousal support is generally awarded to a spouse who has been out of work during the marriage or makes a lower income and needs the support of the other husband even after the divorce. The judge could order one spouse to pay the alimony payments in one lump sum if the spouse has the ability to do so or make monthly payments. Alimony payments can also be modified depending on the ability to pay. For example, if one spouse gets a significant raise in income or loses their job and cannot pay, then the spousal support is also modified since it changes the ability to pay. Alimony, now often known as spousal support or maintenance, is a payment made by one ex-spouse to the other to help them maintain the same standard of living they enjoyed while in the marriage. If you and your spouse are unable to negotiate an alimony settlement, a judge will calculate the amount and duration of spousal support. It is not gender-based; either spouse may request alimony from the other. A court will award alimony only to a spouse who is financially disadvantaged, however. In other words, you can’t get alimony out of your spouse if you are the one who has more income, property, or both. Most states have their own alimony calculator or alimony guidelines for calculating spousal support. However, judges generally look at the following factors:
• The length of the marriage
• Each person’s current salary and future earning potential
• Each person’s other income from sources such as interest, dividends and trusts
• Whether one spouse contributed to the education and career advancement of the other during the marriage
• Whether one spouse was a homemaker during the marriage
• If the couple has children, whether the custodial parent’s future earnings will be limited because of their parental responsibilities
• The age of each spouse and whether either spouse has any physical, mental or emotional issues
• Whether either party was at fault in the divorce
• Whether there are other economic circumstances that seriously affect either spouse. If a spouse is unable to meet the appropriate standard of living without help from the other spouse, then the court looks to a series of factors to determine the amount and duration of alimony. It evaluates the recipient spouse’s financial resources, needs, and earning capacity, as well as the payer spouse’s ability to pay. The court is not required to order an advantaged spouse to pay support if so doing means that the paying spouse won’t be able to be self-supporting. Likewise, the court can’t make the payer spouse pay more than what the recipient spouse needs to meet the marital standard of living, no matter how much money the paying spouse might be able to pay.
• Once the court settles the spouses’ property rights, it will consider a request for alimony. Generally, the court looks to the standard of living enjoyed at the time of separation to determine appropriate alimony, but it can also look at the situation at the time of trial if there has been a significant change in resources since the time of separation – the loss of a job, for example. If your marriage was short and there are no children, the court could use the standard of living at the beginning of marriage instead. After looking at these factors, the judge will decide whether either spouse is entitled to maintenance payments. The judge will also decide how much alimony a person is entitled to and the length of time during which alimony will be paid.
Many factors help determine how much alimony a spouse can get. There is no definite formula to help compute the total amount of spousal support. However, it is computed based on circumstances such as:
• Property and income of the husband and wife,
• Impairments in the capacity to earn,
• Standard of living,
• Length of marriage,
• The number of children to be raised,
• Each spouse’s capacity to earn, and
• Contributions and sacrifices of one spouse for the other spouse’s education or career.
If you are earning more than your spouse, you have a chance of receiving less alimony. If there are children involved and other factors that can help you with your situation, you should be able to get a reasonable amount of alimony. Getting alimony is done through the agreement of both parties. They will discuss how much will be paid on a monthly basis. In case of differences or non-agreement, attorney assistance is needed. If there is still no agreement despite the help of the lawyers, the court will decide on how much money a spouse should get.
Figuring out how much you as a divorcing woman can get for alimony may require help from an attorney. You and your spouse, together with your lawyers will sit down and discuss details such as your ability to earn, your children, standard of living and more. Once the amount is determined, you will then compute if you will receive your alimony on a monthly basis or as a lump sum. It is also advisable to consult with a tax professional about the implications of taxes when receiving alimony, as it is counted as an income on the part of the receiver. Negotiations take place after all the details are discussed. Both spouses, together with their lawyers, will meet with each other. Negotiation is faster compared to a court order, which is why both parties should agree during this period as much as possible. If the terms are agreed upon, both parties should sign the agreement. Otherwise, it will be discussed in court.
To file for alimony in court, as a divorcing woman, you should do the following steps:
• Separate from the spouse: The spouses must first be separated in order to receive alimony. A temporary alimony is received during the beginning of the separation.
• Gather financial information: The courts will require you to present any form of financial information to prove your financial capabilities. Documents such as bank statements, pay slips, proof of rent or mortgage payments and the like are supporting documents to show your financial situation.
• Take it to court: You must file the alimony to the proper courts. You should file it to the court where you and your spouse are currently living.
• Fill out the forms: To properly file for alimony, you must find the forms that are applicable to your case. Once you are done with the forms, you can file them and pay the corresponding fees.
• Inform your spouse: A notice of the alimony petition as well as the divorce is needed in order to inform your spouse. However, if the both of you already signed a joint divorce petition, wait for your spouse’s reply. This will take 21 up to 30 days. Once you get a reply, wait for your court hearing date. You and your spouse will then meet in court and await a decision.
Modification or Termination
Unless the spouses have made a specific written agreement about when alimony ends or under what circumstances it can be modified, when and how an alimony award can be modified depends on the type of alimony.
• A bridge-the-gap award is not modifiable under any circumstances.
• A court might modify rehabilitative alimony if the recipient fails to comply with the rehabilitative plan or completes the plan early.
• Rehabilitative alimony, durational alimony, and permanent alimony are all modifiable if there has been a substantial change in financial circumstances for either spouse; however, except in extraordinary circumstances, durational alimony can only be modified in amount, not in duration, and even in exceptional circumstances the duration can never exceed the length of the marriage.
Both durational and permanent alimony end automatically if the recipient remarries or if either spouse dies. A court can also modify or terminate an award of permanent alimony if the recipient lives with an unrelated person in a supportive relationship. The spouse asking for a modification on this basis must prove the supportive nature of a relationship. The court will find consider the following:
• the extent to which the two people in question have held themselves out as a married couple. for example by using the same last name, using a common mailing address, referring to each other as “my husband” or “my wife”
• the length of time they have lived together at a permanent address
• the extent to which they have pooled assets and income, or otherwise exhibited financial interdependence
• the extent of mutual support between them, including support for each other’s children, regardless of legal obligation
• performance of valuable services for each other, or for each other’s company or employer
• whether the two have worked together to create or enhance anything of value
• whether they have purchased property together, and
• evidence that the two have either an express or implied agreement regarding property sharing or support.
• Average Duration of Alimony
• In short and medium-length marriages, courts generally award alimony for a duration of one-half to one-third the length of the marriage. For marriages of 20 years or more, a court may award permanent alimony, depending on the age of the spouse receiving alimony. For example, for a marriage that lasted at least 20 years, the spouse receiving alimony can receive permanent alimony if the spouse is over age 50. The recipient of alimony receives alimony payments as long as the spouse has a need for support. Therefore, when the alimony recipient remarries or cohabits, the spouse’s alimony payments can be discontinued. Once your divorce is final and alimony decisions are made, either by the court or through your own agreement with your ex, they can be changed. Once again, it depends. If alimony is granted for an extended period, it normally terminates if the receiving spouse remarries, unless there’s an agreement or court order to the contrary entered at the time of the divorce. However, judges in some states, in some circumstances, have the discretion to continue alimony even after the spouse receiving it remarries unless your written settlement agreement specifies that payment will stop if one of you remarries.
Individuals who are considering drafting a trust or a will may wish to consult with an estate planning lawyer. He or she can explain the advantages of using a trust as well as a will. He or she can make recommendations based on the specific considerations of the client. He or she may even recommend using both documents, such as by using a pour-over will that places any property owned at the time of the testator’s death into the trust.