|Alimony and Spousal Support
Alimony, spousal support, or maintenance is
the payment of support from one party to another in order to
keep the receiving party in the lifestyle that they were accustomed
to during the course of their marriage. Either party may receive
alimony. Alimony is ordered by courts far less today than it
was many years ago. This is due in part to the fact that many
households are no longer one-income households.
There are three types of alimony: permanent, rehabilitative,
and temporary alimony. Permanent alimony is typically awarded
to one who is not and cannot become financially independent.
Permanent alimony may not last for the life of the recipient.
Factors including, but not limited to, age of the parties, the
recipient's marital status, the recipient's need for
continued financial assistance, and a change in the payer's
ability to provide alimony, are all taken into account when
determining whether permanent alimony should be continued after
initially awarded. Rehabilitative alimony is temporary in nature.
It gives a party a chance to obtain an education or additional
career training in order to become self-supporting. Temporary
alimony is alimony that lasts for a specific period of time
usually one to two years. It is awarded in circumstances when
the recipient needs a bit of financial assistance for a short
and fixed period of time. Temporary alimony may also be awarded
during the pendency of divorce proceedings.
How Alimony is Determined and Received
Whether a party is eligible for alimony is determined by
the courts on a case-by-case basis. The court takes several
factors into account including:
• Duration of marriage.
• Earning capacity
of each spouse.
• Age of each spouse.
Contributions the spouses made during the marriage (e.g.
Putting the other through school or staying home to raise
• Age of children.
Courts may also consider any other economic circumstances
in determining whether alimony is proper and the amount that
should be awarded. Every state has different laws regarding
alimony and the factors to be considered. More than one-half
of the states in the country no longer take fault into account
in granting or limiting alimony.
Alimony may be received weekly or monthly or in a lump sum
payment. Either the parties or the court will determine the
method of how alimony is received. Alimony is taxable income
to the recipient and must be reported on yearly tax returns.
It is also constitutes a deductible amount by the payer.
The court may modify alimony if circumstances have changed.
For example, a modification may be granted if a decrease in
the payer's ability to provide the original amount of alimony
awarded to the recipient has occurred. A modification or cessation
of alimony may be granted if the recipient remarries or if their
circumstances change. Alimony ceases upon the death of the payer.
Instead of having alimony awarded to one party for a temporary
or permanent period of time, the party could, for example, receive
a larger property settlement, stay in the family home or keep
an account that was previously in both parties' names. Alimony
in gross is not technically alimony but refers to a property
division payable either in a lump sum payment or in installment
payments over a set period of time.