Alimony Law - Spousal Support Law - Maintenance Law
What is Alimony Law?
Alimony law provides the rules for awarding financial support to one spouse following a divorce or separation. The purpose of alimony is to avoid unfairness. When a couple parts ways, the court will divide their marital property in an equitable manner, but this may not be enough to avoid an unjust result. For example, one spouse may leave the marriage with a significantly greater earning capacity. To help ensure the other spouse can maintain a standard of living similar to the one enjoyed during the relationship, the first spouse will be ordered to pay support. The amount and duration of alimony is decided pursuant to state law.
Courts will weigh multiple factors when deciding questions of alimony. These include the supporting spouse’s ability to pay, the length of the marriage, and the time it will take the supported spouse to achieve economic self-sufficiency. If the supported spouse has been assigned custody of the couple’s minor children, an alimony award will also reflect the extent to which that spouse must sacrifice career opportunities in order to care for the children in the years ahead. Moreover, alimony statutes usually contain a catchall provision, allowing courts to consider any unique factual circumstances in the case.
While the law provides alimony guidelines for courts to follow after a marriage has ended, couples are free to enter into contracts related to alimony beforehand. Known as prenuptial agreements, these contracts can partially or completely limit a spouse’s post-marital alimony obligations. To be valid, however, a prenuptial agreement must have been executed “knowingly,” and after full disclosure of each spouse’s income and assets. This typically requires that both spouses visit with their own attorneys about the agreement before signing it.
Types of Alimony
Like other matters of state law, alimony statutes are slightly different in each jurisdiction. Nevertheless, the various forms of alimony can be categorized four ways. The first type is permanent alimony. As the name suggests, permanent alimony will continue for life, or until the spouse receiving it gets remarried. Courts will usually refuse to order permanent alimony when the marriage lasted a short time, or when it appears it will be relatively easy for the supported spouse to secure gainful employment. In such cases, the court will likely establish a termination date. This second type of alimony is called limited duration alimony.
The third type of alimony is known as rehabilitative alimony. To qualify, the supported spouse must propose a course of action whereby the spouse will obtain career education or training. The idea is to award a specific amount of support to finance the plan, after which further alimony will not be necessary. The fourth type of support is reimbursement alimony. This is designed to repay contributions made during the marriage. For example, reimbursement alimony is appropriate when the supported spouse paid for the other spouse to earn an advanced degree, but the marriage did not last long enough for both to enjoy the financial rewards of that education.
Establishing a Right to Support
Convincing a court to award alimony is a matter of presenting facts about the marriage relationship in a way that addresses the statutory guidelines. For instance, a typical alimony statute might include the marital standard of living as a factor for the court to consider. Thus, to maximize the amount of alimony, the supported spouse should gather and present evidence of the couple’s regular expenditures during the marriage. In addition to receipts, account statements, and other documents, the supported spouse could call the couple’s acquaintances to testify as to what life was like in the household prior to divorce.
Of course, a spouse seeking alimony may not have personal access to all financial records bearing on the issue of the couple’s past finances. The discovery process is meant to rectify this problem. Discovery is the procedure whereby each party demands that the other turn over copies of relevant evidence. In an alimony case, discovery is sure to include all forms of financial information. In short, the supporting spouse cannot try to hinder or prevent the efforts of the supported spouse by refusing to allow access to the evidence needed to establish a right to receive alimony.
Modification of an Alimony Award
All types of alimony have one thing in common – they are awarded in order to address the needs of the supported spouse. What happens if the needs of the supported spouse unexpectedly change after alimony has been established? The answer is that the court will modify or terminate alimony, as long as there is sufficient proof that the need no longer exists. For example, even if the supported spouse has not remarried, if it becomes evident that he or she is receiving financial support from a new partner, the court may decide to reduce the level of alimony accordingly.
Consult an Alimony Lawyer
If you have questions about your alimony rights or obligations, it is best to consult with an experienced attorney in your area. Factors may exist that you have not considered. Even if you have a cordial relationship with your former spouse, alimony is an issue that requires independent legal advice.
Know Your Rights!
Articles About Alimony Law
- Common California Family Law Questions AnsweredTwelve common family law questions.
- How To Financially Prepare For DivorceAt Huesman, Jones & Miles, LLC, our dedicated Maryland family law attorneys understand that the decision to end a marriage has major consequences in every area of your life. Understanding and preparing for the financial implications of divorce should be one of the first steps during the divorce process.
- Common Divorce MistakesDealing with the financial and emotional aspects of divorce can be extremely taxing. Recognizing and avoiding these common mistakes make for the smoothest transition possible as couples move into the next phase of their lives.
- A Case of Fraud and DivorceSometimes in divorce cases, spouses feel that they have been defrauded by the other spouse. Sometimes that feeling is justified. They wonder whether they can make a claim for fraud in their divorce case. The case of Cramer v. Cramer looked specifically at this issue.
- Different Issues Handled by a Family AttorneyYou are proposed to contemplate a number of distinct things, with regards to selecting quality family attorneys.
- What You Need to Know About Taxes and DivorceDivorce can be emotionally and financially devastating to all involved parties. It is important for all divorcing and separating couples to understand the tax implications of financial decisions relating to divorce. State and federal tax laws address divorce with respect to income calculation, exemptions, deductions and tax credits.
- Age Difference Between Spouses Impacts Likelihood of DivorceThere are numerous variables which can predict if a marriage is destined for divorce. Among these factors are income levels, having children and the amount of time a couple spends together prior to getting married. A recent study compiled data from over 3,000 married and divorced couples which showed that the age difference between the individuals getting married can also predict the likelihood of whether or not the marriage will last or end in divorce.
- How Long Does a Divorce Take?As with most questions in the legal realm, the answer to this seemingly simple question is “It depends.” A simple, no-fault divorce with both parties consenting and promptly filing all the necessary paperwork can be done in about 120 days from filing the divorce complaint to the date of the divorce decree. On the other end of the spectrum, some divorce cases can drag out for 4, 5 or even 10 years. The timeframe for most divorces falls between those two extremes.
- What Is the Process Involved in Getting a Divorce from Start to Finish?Divorce can be a complex legal process. Each state has its own rules regarding getting a divorce, but most follow the order listed below.
- How Can I Get Divorced in One State When My Spouse Lives in Another State?Getting a divorce becomes more complicated when spouses no longer live in the same state. In some situations, a spouse has moved to another state right after the couple recently separated. In other cases, the spouses have continued separate lives in different states for several years. Even if spouses live in different states, they can still get divorced.
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Alimony Law - US
- ABA - Alimony and Spousal Support Committee
- Administration for Children and Families - Collection of Support for Certain Adult
- Alimony and Separate Maintenance Payments
General Rule - Gross income includes amounts received as alimony or separate maintenance payments.
- IRS - Topic 452 - Alimony Paid
If you are divorced or separated, you may be able to deduct the alimony or separate maintenance payments that you are required to make to your spouse or former spouse, or on behalf of that spouse.
- Social Security Act - Consent to Support Enforcement