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
- 4 Common Misconceptions About Child Support After DivorceWe’ve all heard of child support: an ongoing, periodic payment made by the noncustodial parent following the end of marriage. In fact, even in “joint custody” cases, there’s still a custodial parent—who the child spends more time with—and a noncustodial parent, and child support must be transferred. An exception to this would be if both parents earn the same income, pay equal amounts of expenses for the child and have the child the same number of days.
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- Avoid A "Bar Fight Mentality" In Your Family Law CaseParties going through a divorce often have the viewpoint that it is helpful to be aggressive, confrontational and hostile in their family law case. By being a bully, or acting angry, they wrongly conclude that this will lend to a positive result in their family law case.
- Divorce & Family Law Courts: The Ten Biggest Mistakes Men MakeIt’s no secret, when it comes to divorce with children involved, there seems to be an inequality in the courts based on gender—more often than not, the mother walks away with all of the rights, leaving the father frustrated and denied of the paternal rights deserved.
- California Child Support Laws - The BasicsWith divorce effecting over three quarters of marriages nowadays, there is a constant demand for answers to the unknowns. Oftentimes, the most important, and stressful, unknown that couples face when encountering a divorce is monetary issues.
- Protect your Financial Security During and After DivorceA growing number of people are divorcing late in life. No matter what the reason it is imperative to protect your financial security throughout and after the divorce process. You have accumulated a lot of things during the marriage—now is the time to retain as many as possible. There are savings and investment accounts, real estate and other personal and in some cases business assets to consider. An estate plan must be updated, health and other insurance replaced and the list goes on.
- Post-Divorce Child Custody Modification Issues in MissouriThe “best interests” of the child is the family law gold standard used to determine child custody, adoption, guardianship, and visitation rights among other issues. This also is the benchmark for modifying custody and support issues post-divorce. True, it is a subjective, discretionary test that evaluates factors that affect the welfare and interests of the child, but its importance is paramount as a tool for determining child custody in Missouri.
- Chronic Illness and DivorceChronic illness is the leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Experts say it also increases the risk of divorce from the 40-50% norm to as much as 75%. Given the relationship between chronic diseases and conditions—such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, immune conditions, arthritis, etc.—and divorce, it becomes prudent to plan what steps to take if one should become seriously ill. This is especially true for older married couples.
- Helpful Tips for Single Mothers After DivorceThis is for the single mothers out there who never thought they could make it through their divorce and did. Divorce is draining, both emotionally and physically. You know you’ve made the right decision because it was more painful to be in a dysfunctional marriage.
- How Cohabitation Impacts Alimony PaymentsLet’s assume for this discussion that you have settled your divorce, the kids are coping with the change in their lives. You have moved on from your divorce and have found a wonderful new partner in life. You are thinking about moving in with them and taking that relationship to the next level.
- 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