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.
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Articles About Alimony Law
- How to Avoid Overpaying Alimony in New JerseyAlimony in NJ is paid when the divorce proceedings start.
- Annulment in New JerseyAn annulment is an action that negates a marriage. Unlike a divorce, whereby there is a record of the marriage, an annulment treats a marriage like it never happened. Many people simply feel uncomfortable about being labeled as “divorced,” and prefer to start with a clean slate—theoretically erasing their past.
- What to Look for in a Strong Family Law Expert WitnessFamily law requires knowledge of a broad spectrum of subjects such as divorce, child custody and even separation. An expert in these matters is able to provide help in various functions of family law within the legal realm. If a child is in the middle of a custody battle, a family law expert witness may provide the insight into the matter that the judge may not have considered or known previously.
- What Can Happen if You Lie about Your Finances during a DivorceMost divorce proceedings rely on the documentation from the husband and wife, and these files need to be accurate. If there are any assets or liabilities still hidden, this could cause complications and eventually lead to another divorce procedure.
- Divorce as a Financial TransactionDivorce proceedings are full of various different transactions, and many persons take the events emotionally and with serious intent. However, when the relationship has ended, and everything else remains the same, a divorce may become nothing more than a financial transaction.
- Is Adultery a Crime in Texas?In Texas adultery is a ground for divorce in Texas. Texas laws take adultery into account when it comes to the dissolution of the marriage and can call for punitive damages for unfaithful behavior. Learn in Today's blog we examine whether Adultery is also a crime in Texas and whether other states treat it as a crime.
- Timeline from Temporary Orders to Final OrdersIn family court, there are several types of orders that affect different persons in various manners. Some of these are temporary, and it is possible to see temporary orders become permanent or final orders. This is due to the numerous issues that must be sorted, understood and completed during divorce, custody and other problems with the family.
- How to Prove Financial Disclosures are FalseThere are complications that arise during divorce proceedings that often cause one of the spouses difficulty in obtaining the much-needed monetary assistance that he or she should be owed. This comes in disclosures of financial data.
- Legal Remedies when a Spouse Has Stopped Paying Spousal SupportWhen a former spouse does not comply with a court order to pay spousal support, there may be a number of remedies available to the recipient spouse.
- Critical Things to Understand about Spousal SupportOne highly contentious aspect of a divorce is spousal support. Spousal support may be awarded in a divorce action which involves one spouse making monetary payments to the other spouse for a specified duration of time. A court may order spousal support, or the parties may make an agreement pertaining to how much, for how long and under what conditions spousal support will be paid, if at all.
- 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