Even though your marriage is over, your financial obligation to your spouse may not be. In Mississippi, divorces of a particular type may come with continued spousal support, commonly referred to as alimony. Alimony is generally used to support a former spouse who is unable to support themselves or unable to provide themselves with the lifestyle they had previously become accustomed to. Alimony can be freely agreed to by the separating spouses or insisted upon by the family court handling their divorce. This article will cover what you need to know about spousal support and the issues a court will consider when determining alimony.
Who Pays Alimony?
An unemployed or underemployed spouse can petition the Mississippi family court to award them alimony after a divorce. The court will look at the circumstances of the divorce and either agree or deny it. Commonly, a spouse who is the sole breadwinner in a marriage will pay alimony to their less-than-financially-independent spouse either temporarily or permanently, depending on the situation. The court considers this a fair exchange due to an assumption that both spouses contributed equally to the marriage. Even if only one spouse provided income, it is assumed the other contributed as a homemaker or by raising the children. Because of this, the unemployed spouse is entitled to financial support since they relied on their employed spouse during the marriage.
How Alimony Is Determined?
Unlike child support, there is no financial calculator when determining alimony. Instead, the court must look into the specifics of the individuals and their marriage when assigning a fair amount. In the case of Armstrong v. Armstrong in 1993, the Mississippi Supreme Court set 12 guidelines to be followed for determining all future alimony cases. Those 12 guidelines are:
- The income and expenses of both parties
- The health and earning capacities of both parties
- The needs of each party
- The obligations and assets of each party
- The length of the marriage
- The presence or absence of minor-aged children in the home, which may require that one or both parties either pay, or personally provide, childcare
- The age of the parties
- The standard of living of both parties, both during the marriage and at the time of the support determination
- The tax consequences of the spousal support order
- Fault or misconduct by either party during the marriage
- Wasteful dissipation of assets by either party; and
- Any other factors deemed by the court to be “just and equitable” in connection with the setting of spousal support.
Three Main Issues That The Court Will Consider
When it comes to assigning alimony, the court will consider three main issues:
- How much alimony will be required?
- How long will alimony be required?
- What type of alimony is best for this situation?
How Much Alimony Will Be Required?
As we noted above, there are several factors that the court will consider when assigning alimony. These variables make predicting the amount of alimony you may be assigned very difficult. That said, in many cases, alimony is understood as roughly 35-40% of the paying spouse’s income after 40-50% of the receiving spouse’s income is subtracted. To make the math problem easy, let’s assume the paying spouse has a yearly income of $100,000 and the receiving spouse has an income of $50,000. $20,000-$25,000 of the receiving spouse’s income is subtracted from $40,000-$50,000 of the paying spouse’s income. In this overly simplified demonstration, the yearly alimony amount would be $20,000-$25,000.
How Long Will Alimony Be Required?
This is another difficult question to simplify. The variables outlined above will determine how long alimony will be paid. As a general rule, however, alimony is not permanent unless the receiving spouse is of advanced age or suffers from a disability. Modern-day alimony is intended to help the receiving spouse eventually become financially independent. Alimony will end if the receiving spouse gets remarried or (of course) if either spouse dies.
What Type Of Alimony?
There are three main types of alimony used most often today. The first is called periodic alimony and consists of monthly payments for an indeterminate amount of time. The second is lump-sum alimony, which is one or two large payments containing the total amount that will ever need to be paid. The third and most common is rehabilitative alimony. This type is denoted by the specific requirements that it be used for the education or training of the receiving spouse. Once the education or training is complete, the payments will end.
For more information on how alimony may be determined for your case, call The Law Offices of Rusty Williard at (601) 824-9797.