Alimony as a Level Playing Field
Key Points
  • Alimony is considered by the court on a case-by-case basis because it is directly tied to the property and debt distribution. Each case or situation is unique.
  • States have worksheets to calculate recommended child support, but this is not the case for spousal support.

While child support payments are calculated on a formula or a percentage of the non-custodial parent's earnings, the judge, on a case-by-case basis, decides alimony awarded. In determining the amount of alimony to be paid, the judge considers a variety of factors, but since both spouses are equal under the law, alimony is no longer being automatically awarded only to the wife when a marriage breaks down. If a large discrepancy exists between the earnings of the two people involved, then a judge may award alimony to one person in an effort to maintain "the standard of living established during the marriage."

In this routine, men or women who are the primary breadwinners should be responsible for paying what the courts say is fair and it shouldn’t matter that the recipients are male or female. Many men don’t seek alimony because of the stigma associated with being supported by a woman. They may not want to be a “kept” man, but a failure to take advantage of what the law allows cheats them.

When a woman has achieved success in the corporate world or her own business, she may be ordered to pay alimony to her former husband, at least temporarily. A man who stays at home to raise the children while his wife works is likely to be given some kind of financial support until he can find work. If he has been out of the workforce for some time, then the wife may face payments for several years to allow him to go back to school or take a job-training course.

In a situation where a person is unable to work due to illness or disability, the judge may order that alimony be paid for a longer period of time and even permanently.

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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TAXABILITY – When it meets IRS guidelines about the terms and conditions of payment, alimony is deductible to the payor and taxable to the recipient. Requirements for this tax treatment include explicitly labeling the payments as spousal support in the divorce decree and requiring the spouses to live apart while receiving support and terminating the payments when the recipient spouse dies. 

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