Spousal Support and Alimony Facts and Tips
One and the Same

Alimony and spousal support are different terms for the same payment. Alimony comes from the Latin alimony, which means sustenance to assure the wife’s lodging, clothing, food and other necessities after separation.


A Type of Compensation

Alimony compensates a spouse for her (and sometimes now his) contribution to the home or for the development of the other spouse’s career. It is also given to make up for the financial problems of one spouse.

Not Only Women

The gender neutral term spousal support came into use in 1981, when a court ordered a woman to pay monthly support to her husband. The term alimony historically meant a support payment from a husband to a wife, and in the main, when alimony is awarded, it is the woman who receives it. A judge may order either a husband or a wife to pay support, depending on which spouse was the high earner in the relationship.

Calculation of Alimony

In most jurisdictions, judges exercise broad discretion in awarding alimony, its amount and duration. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, on which many states' spousal support statutes are based, recommends that courts consider the following factors in making decisions about alimony awards: the age, physical condition, emotional state, and financial condition of the former spouse, the length of time the recipient needs education or training to become self-sufficient, the couple's standard of living, the length of the marriage, and the ability of the payor spouse to support the recipient and support himself or herself.

Types of Alimony

Alimony is mainly divided into four categories: temporary alimony, rehabilitative alimony, permanent alimony and reimbursement alimony. Temporary alimony (alimony pendent lite) is given to one spouse (usually the woman) pending a divorce. Rehabilitative alimony is given to a lesser earning spouse till she (or he) becomes self-sufficient. Permanent alimony is also given to the lesser earning spouse until the death of either one of them or until remarriage of the recipient. Reimbursement alimony is given as reimbursement for the expenses incurred by a spouse during the time of marriage.

Alimony Blues

Courts are most likely to award permanent alimony in the case of a middle-aged stay-at-home mother who faces a heroically difficult climb to reenter a job market indifferent to her stale job skills. Even though lifetime alimony is raw material for standup comedians in nightclubs, the career homemaker very often needs this protection.

Lump Sum

Sometimes, a judge awards a one-time payment known as "lump sum" spousal support.

Taxability

Communication is the single most important thing to consider when saving a marriage: really listening. Without open communications and being able to discuss issues, spouses cannot save marriages. A healthy relationship is based on open communication.

Compliance

The enforcement of alimony payments is not like child-support, which has the "teeth" of wage garnishment, liens, and other enforcement mechanisms. In the event of failure to comply, the recipient can, however, return to court to force payment in a contempt action.

Duration

Alimony is often considered "rehabilitative," that is, ordered as long as necessary for the recipient to receive training and become self-supporting. If the divorce decree does not specify a termination date, the payments continue until the court orders otherwise. Most awards end if the recipient remarries. Termination upon the payor's death is not necessarily automatic; in cases in which the recipient spouse is unlikely to obtain gainful employment, due perhaps to age or health considerations, the court may order that further support be provided from the payor's estate or life insurance proceeds.

Alimony Trends

In the past, most alimony awards provided for payments to former wives by breadwinning former husbands. Now most marriages include two wage earners. Women are viewed as less dependent, and men may be primary parents. More and more, the tradition of men paying and women receiving spousal support is being eroded, and orders of alimony payments from ex-wife to ex-husband are on the rise.


Suggested Reading
The Spousal Support Handbook The Spousal Support Handbook
Spousal support is one of many issues that is often difficult for spouses to agree upon. Before negotiating and even signing an agreement regarding spousal support it is very important that you understand your rights and the repercussions of any actions taken.

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CALCULATION OF ALIMONY – In most jurisdictions, judges exercise broad discretion in awarding alimony, its amount and duration. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, on which many states' spousal support statutes are based, recommends that courts consider the following factors in making decisions about alimony awards: the age, physical condition, emotional state, and financial condition of the former spouse; the length of time the recipient needs education or training to become self-sufficient; the couple's standard of living; the length of the marriage; and the ability of the payor spouse to support the recipient and support himself or herself.
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