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
- What Does the OPM Have to Do with My Divorce?Retirement from government work may lead to complications with the division of assets when a federal employee divorces his or her spouse. It is vital for the worker to know how his or her retirement benefits and accounts could face such deductions from a former spouse after reaching and progressing through retirement.
- USFSPA: Uniformed Services Former Spouse Protection ActThe intention of Congress in 1982 in creating the USFSPA was to ensure that former spouses of military members receive financial protection after the marriage is over. This Act could protect the former spouse through divisions in military retirement pay in becoming marital property when the couple dissolve the relationship.
- Disabled Military Retirees May Pay Less to Ex-Spouses - U.S. Supreme Court RulesChanges in regulations for various types of pay and compensation reduce or increase often based on the rulings that occur through district and supreme courts. In the newest ruling, the amounts that military retired service members pay to spouses that divorced prior to or during retirement may decrease to support the veteran more and the ex-spouse less.
- Problems Involved with Hiding Assets during a Pennsylvania DivorceDuring divorce, spouses may try to protect their assets from division by hiding them from the other spouse. This may be easier if the spouse has handled the couple’s finances for most of the marriage and the other spouse is unaware of the true extent of the marital estate. However, hiding assets during the divorce process can lead to significant consequences to all parties involved.
- Military Pension Division in New York Divorce CasesOne of the major issues involved in a divorce case is the division of the couple’s assets and debts. For many couples, a major asset is their retirement fund or pension. In some cases, these assets are subject to division in a divorce case. While this process is complicated enough on its own, there are additional complications when the couple involves a service member.
- How Retirement Accounts Are Divided in a Georgia DivorceDivorce is often a complex process that involves legal obligations, emotions, logistical concerns and other stressful considerations. Although many divorcing parties are distraught over the prospect of divorce, divorcing parties are often in the position of having to make important decisions that may have an impact on their life for years to come.
- How Long Do I Have Military Tricare after a Divorce?When divorcing a spouse, an individual in the military needs to update the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System first and then ensure that all other documentation is up to date as well. Then, the person needs to contact Tricare to determine if any other processes need completing based on the year, state or new changes.
- Overview of North Carolina Spousal Support LawsWhen spouses have disparate resources or earning ability, North Carolina have the power to better equalize these disparities through the award of spousal support. North Carolina laws have thorough guidelines regarding the award of alimony.
- The Five Types of Spousal Support in CaliforniaCalifornia provides for various types of spousal support when couples separate or divorce in the state. Divorce is often an expensive undertaking in many couples. However, the financial disparity between spouses is most recognized during this period, and spousal support provides a way to better equalize the financial situations between the spouses.
- 20 Factors New York Courts Consider When Determining Spousal Support CalculationAfter New York courts have determined that spousal support should be paid, they consider the following 20 factors in determining how much support payments should be:
- 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