Spousal support or alimony is a system in which one spouse pays an income to the other after a divorce. Courts will usually require spousal support for cases in which all or most of the income for the married couple came from only one spouse. This is because the court assumes the unemployed spouse contributed to the marriage in non-financial ways such as homemaking and childrearing. It can be argued that the stay-at-home spouse has been removed from the job market due to their contributions to their marriage and therefore is entitled to financial assistance for a period of time. How long the alimony must be paid and what circumstances will cause it to stop can vary wildly from couple to couple.
How Is Alimony Decided?
The court will consider many aspects of the marriage and the divorcing parties individually when coming up with a fair spousal support plan. In the case of young spouses with many more earning years ahead of them, alimony may only last a few years. The support may even be explicitly directed at training or education that will eventually lead to the stay-at-home spouse supporting themselves. Alternatively, if a marriage was very long and the spouses are now senior citizens, a more permanent type of alimony may be utilized.
In order for the court to decide where along the spectrum of these examples to fall on, they will examine the following determining factors:
- The earning capacity of each spouse
- How much the stay-at-home spouse may have contributed to the other’s education, career, or licensure
- The standard of living each spouse was accustomed to before the divorce
- The length of the marriage
- The goal that the alimony will ultimately achieve
Types Of Alimony
There are three common types of alimony that are used for most divorce cases where spousal support is necessary.
Periodic alimony can be either temporary or permanent, depending on the factors above. This type of spousal support is paid periodically for an indefinite amount of time. The amount paid each month can usually be negotiated throughout the required length of the payments. For instance, if the supporting party loses a job or their income is reduced, they can request that the divorce court lower the amount they are required to pay. The same is true if the supported party goes through a significant life event. If they become chronically ill, they may request the monthly payments increase. Also, if they get remarried or cohabitate with a new partner, the payments may decrease or stop all together. Periodic alimony is an ongoing negotiation that can change based on the circumstances.
Lump-Sum alimony is usually paid in one or two large payments in which the total amount of agreed-upon spousal support is paid all at the same time. As you can imagine, there is little room for negotiation down the road because the alimony payments have started and stopped in one instance. This can be particularly beneficial for couples who do not wish to have the ongoing relationship that periodic alimony may require. It can, however, be a bad idea for the supported party if they have no experience managing finances over time.
Most instances of alimony are rehabilitative. That means the payments are made for the express purpose of “rehabilitating” the supported party back into the workforce. The court will require proof that the money is being spent on education and training to improve the spouse’s hire-ability. After an appropriate amount of time, the payments will stop, and the supported party will be able to support themselves.
When Does Alimony End?
Spousal support ends when the court agrees that the goal of the alimony has been met. Depending on the factors above, the purpose of alimony may be to support the spouse indefinitely, train them to rejoin the workforce, or pay them a single lump sum with no continued contact. Permanent periodic alimony may only end when the supported party remarries, or either party dies.
Does Alimony End If I Get Remarried?
If you are the supporting spouse, the answer is no. Your intentions to remarry have no bearing on the needs of your former spouse. Alimony payments will continue to be required until one of the circumstances mentioned above occurs. If you are the supported spouse, the answer is yes. Alimony you receive from your ex can stop immediately if you are remarried or you move in with a new partner. The court will consider you to be supported and the requirements placed on your ex null and void.
If you have questions about how your alimony payments will be affected by changing circumstances, call The Law Offices of Rusty Williard at (601) 824-9797.