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
- Dividing Assets for Older Couples in DivorceOlder couples may decide to get a divorce for some of the same reasons as younger people. However, they may also have unique considerations that are not as prominent in divorcing involving younger couples.
- What Is Voluntary Underemployment and What Difference Can it Make in the Final Outcome of a Divorce?Remember, an accusation of voluntary underemployment must be proven in court and it takes a well trained legal mind to know how to do this to the court’s satisfaction.
- Equitable Distribution for Pre-Marital Co-HabitationWorldwide people are marrying later and the United States is no exception. In 2015 the average age for marriage was 28, and in 2014 barely half of all Americans were married. With many millennials waiting until their thirties to say “I do,” longer co-habitation periods are becoming the norm for couples.
- Forensic Accounting and DivorceDuring a divorce proceeding, some of the most contentious issues arise out of financial disputes. When the marital estate is sizable and one spouse has always been in charge of a couple’s finances, it may be worth hiring a forensic accountant to aid in determining the value of assets in a divorce.
- California Enforcement of Child Support Orders from Other StatesCalifornia draws many of its residents from other states. Many people who move into the state are divorced and are receiving or are paying child support.
- How a Divorce Can Impact Your Retirement PlanningEveryone knows that divorce has a rather massive impact on life. From the relationship itself to all of the financial changes, divorce affects most everything, including your retirement.
- What Are the Benefits of Legal SeparationFor many, legal separations simply sounds like a different way of saying divorce.
- When One Spouse Takes Advantage of AlimonyAlimony is usually determined through a number of factors when the couple has dissolved the relationship legally. The funds that are garnered to the other spouse usually increase or decrease based on the ability of the person’s pay and assets.
- The Need for Mediation in Divorce ProceedingsDivorce is often a very painful and emotional time. Family law cases are some of the most contentious in existence. However, not all divorce cases must be bitter and problematic. Mediation helps bridge the gap between parties and offers them the ability to split in an amicable fashion.
- Will Dating During a Divorce Result in Any Legal Implications?Before considering to date someone while a divorce is still being finalized or has not had the paperwork completed may risk negative consequences. There are often possible legal ramifications to understand that could cause a negative impact on the individual that does date another person when going through a divorce. These issues could affect the divorcing partner and the other dating him or her.
- All Family Law Articles
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