Alimony

Overview

Alimony, often called spousal support, becomes an issue for a married couple that separates when it is established that one spouse was actually or substantially economically dependent on the other in the marriage.  Unlike child support, the amount of alimony is typically determined after taking into consideration each spouse’s income and reasonable financial needs and expenses, among other things.  At Smith Debnam, our experience and depth of knowledge with regard to alimony ensures that our clients are fully informed of their rights and obligations, and that their interests are assertively pursued.

How is cohabitation defined?

Cohabitation is defined by statute as, “the act of two adults dwelling together continuously and habitually in a private heterosexual relationship, even if this relationship is not solemnized by marriage, or a private homosexual relationship.” Cohabitation also includes the voluntary assumption of marital-like rights and duties, which can include sexual relations.

What is post separation support?

Post separation support is basically temporary alimony. It is intended to help meet the dependent spouse’s financial needs from the time of separation until the alimony claim can be heard by the court and a decision made.

What are the consequences of marital misconduct?

Marital misconduct can be considered when determining amount or duration of alimony or as a basis for a court-ordered separation.

Can alimony ever be terminated?

When two parties agree to a specific amount of alimony, they also usually agree upon the circumstances that would warrant terminating alimony, including a specific ending date. Alimony typically ceases at a specific, pre-determined date, upon the death of either party, upon the remarriage of the person receiving alimony or upon the cohabitation of the person receiving alimony.

How long does alimony last?

There is no specific legal requirement regarding the duration of alimony; however, there are many factors that a court will consider in determining the duration of alimony.

What happens if my spouse falls behind on alimony payments?

The manner in which alimony was resolved determines how it may be collected. Some of the measures to collect unpaid alimony can be accomplished without a lawyer, but a lawyer can help an individual to understand the process and what is involved.

Can the amount of alimony be changed if my circumstances change?

In some cases, the amount of alimony a person is required to pay can be adjusted. When people have bargained for an amount of alimony in a contract which specifies that the amount will not be modifiable, it is not likely to be adjusted. However, in cases where alimony is set out in a court order and a person’s expenses have greatly increased, or one party’s income has significantly changed, alimony may be subject to modification. Legal advice is necessary to determine if the facts of the case warrant a modification.

How is alimony treated on my income taxes?

Alimony is taxable as income to the person who receives it and tax deductible for the person paying it.

How do I determine how much alimony I should receive?

How much alimony a person should receive is a complicated issue and depends on the financial situations of both parties. An individual can get a general idea of how much he or she might expect to receive by deducting his or her average, reasonable monthly expenses from his or her net income to determine what ability he or she has to pay. Then complete the same calculation for the other spouse’s average, reasonable expenses and net income to determine how much additional money he or she might pay on a monthly basis. This mathematical equation oversimplifies the process of determining an alimony entitlement, if any, and an attorney will help to determine, with more detail, what one might expect to receive. There are no formulas used in establishing alimony, and there are many factors that lie solely with the presiding judge.

How do I determine how much alimony I owe?

How much alimony a person should pay is a complicated issue and depends on the financial situations of both parties. An individual can get a general idea of how much he or she might owe by deducting his or her average, reasonable monthly expenses from his or her net income to determine what ability he or she has to pay. Then complete the same calculation for the other spouse’s average, reasonable expenses and net income to determine how much additional money he or she might need on a monthly basis. This mathematical equation oversimplifies the process of determining an alimony obligation, if any, and an attorney will help to determine, with more detail, what one might expect to pay. There are no formulas used in establishing alimony, and there are many factors that lie solely with the presiding judge.

Am I entitled to receive alimony?

If one spouse was the main financial provider in the family, the other spouse may be entitled to alimony payments. Each case is unique, and both parties’ needs and expenses will be considered in the decision.

Is there a difference between child support and alimony?

Yes. Child support is support paid for use and benefit of the child, and alimony is support paid for the use and benefit of a spouse or former spouse.

What if my spouse had an affair?

Extramarital affairs can be considered a form of marital misconduct, which may affect the amount or duration of alimony that a person pays or receives. Sometimes, when extramarital affairs are an issue, lawsuits for alienation of affection and criminal conversation can arise. An attorney can help evaluate whether these actions are appropriate for a specific situation.

What is marital misconduct?

Marital misconduct can include certain acts that occur during the marriage, such as infidelity, abandonment, cruel treatment, verbal or physical abuse, reckless spending or excessive use of drugs or alcohol, among other things.

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