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What is Alimony?

Dena Standley | November 25, 2022

Summary: An alimony award provides a continuing income to a spouse who is not a wage earner or earns a lower wage after a divorce. The ex-spouse may have abandoned a career to support the family, so they need time to acquire job skills.

A significant part of the divorce process is alimony. Alimony can refer to several payments made from one spouse to the other, and divorcees are entitled to alimony to maintain a similar standard of living.

A majority of alimony awards in the past went to ex-wives. But due to the rise in two-wage marriages, women are considered less dependent now, and men might be the primary parents in many cases. The number of orders for alimony payments from ex-wives to ex-husbands is rising.

In recent years, courts and awards for spousal support have kept pace with changing circumstances, for example, following the Obergefell v. Hodges decision. Higher-earning spouses in same-sex divorces are ordered to pay alimony to a dependent spouse of the same gender. Here is more.

What is alimony?

An alimony payment is a financial support one spouse provides to another after a divorce. The ex-spouse may need support if the other spouse cannot support themselves. In general, alimony is a sum of money calculated and fixed by a court for one of the spouses to contribute.

A variety of factors may determine alimony support in different states, including

  • Both parties' ages
  • Marriage duration
  • Education (if any) and degrees earned

Separated or divorced parents may need to pay alimony based on their expenses and resources, such as:

  • Spouses' net monthly incomes
  • Credit status
  • Rent
  • Taxation
  • Amounts spent on the children's education, health, and other expenses

The payments may be made in one lump sum or in installments.

How to understand alimony

In each state, the amount of and duration of alimony depends on the length of the marriage and each spouse's current and future potential incomes, and many factors vary from state to state.

A relatively new marriage or one in which spouses have similar annual incomes may not be eligible for alimony payments. Children support, noncash property settlements, voluntary payments, or money used to maintain the property are not included in alimony.

What are the types of alimony?

Depending on the state, alimony can take a variety of forms. For example, California has five types of alimony:

  • Temporary alimony: Divorce costs and daily expenses may be included, but the payments cease once the divorce ends.
  • Permanent alimony: A monthly payment is made until the lower-earning spouse remarries or passes away.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: Paid while the lower-earning spouse studies, trains, or tries to find a job. It ends either after a certain period or when the payee becomes independent.
  • Reimbursement alimony: The lower-earning spouse is reimbursed for expenses such as tuition or work training, but it is not on an ongoing basis.
  • Lump-sum alimony: The payment is made instead of a property settlement when one spouse does not wish to keep any property or assets from the marriage.

Alimony termination is flexible and open to negotiation, as evidenced above by the types of alimony. Among the other situations that could justify stopping payments are:

  • Retirement
  • Parental care is no longer required for children
  • An evaluation by a judge that a recipient is not striving to become self-sufficient

How to get alimony

The court must be able to establish some facts before ordering alimony. Some facts are common to all states, but others vary.

  • You may have to prove the standard of living you enjoyed while you were married without your spouse's support, and you will have to give a detailed account of your financial situation.
  • Your spouse will most likely have to demonstrate that they can maintain a standard of living similar to what you had when you were married, even if they pay you alimony.
  • A premarital agreement or a divorce proceeding containing no alimony provision will prevent you from receiving it.

How do taxes on alimony work?

There has been a change in the rules regarding alimony taxation. Taxes on alimony payments were deductible expenses for the payer but taxable income for the receiver. As a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, alimony payments are no longer deductible on federal taxes for divorce agreements signed after Dec. 31, 2018.

Additionally, alimony recipients no longer owe federal taxes for alimony payments.

Is there a formula for calculating alimony?

States have formulas that help the court calculate alimony. A lower-earning spouse receives a percentage of the difference between their monthly incomes. In some states, guidelines apply only to divorces where the income threshold is below a certain amount.

The courts in some states have a great deal of leeway to determine the amount of alimony, depending on precedent but still relying on their judgment. Paying alimony does not usually result in a lower net income for the paying spouse than the receiving spouse.

Alimony enforcement

It may be harder to enforce alimony than other court orders, such as child support, even though it is legally binding. Even so, recipients have legal recourse if they don't receive what the court ordered.

Alimony and child support can often leave one or both spouses struggling with unpaid debt. SoloSuit can help. Visit our website today to explore your options.

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