Does my state have alimony?

While divorce ends a marriage, the financial relationship between you and your ex does not just end. Whether you are dealing with child support or alimony, the financial relationship can go on for many years, and in some cases, may be permanent. 

In many marriages, one spouse earns more than the other. In case of a divorce, the earning discrepancy means the financially stable partner needs to provide financial support to enable their ex-spouse to establish a new post-divorce life. What exactly is alimony?

Understanding Alimony

Spousal support or alimony is financial assistance available only to legally married spouses seeking a divorce. It is a partner's contribution that ensures their ex-spouse or recipient achieves their financial independence after divorce.  

While spousal maintenance or support may seem like a straightforward affair, it's covered by different laws, with each state having different provisions.

Spousal support starts during a legal divorce or separation, and enables the receiving spouse to cover their necessities until they become financially stable or remarry. Expenses covered include clothing, food, housing, essential travel, auto insurance, gas, tuition fees, and health insurance. 

Not all divorcing spouses qualify for alimony, especially when both spouses are financially independent and can comfortably cover their own needs.  

Who qualifies for alimony?

Alimony is issued according to different terms and on a case-by-case basis. 

In many cases, persons involved in marriage for over five years qualify to receive spousal support. However, the court takes into account other factors including;

  • Each spouse earning capacity
  • Property and assets accumulation for each person
  • Debts by each spouse
  • Business entities for both parties including shared ones
  • Contribution of each party towards the marriage for example non-monetary like caring for children or homemaker
  • Prenuptial agreement before marriage
  • Physical age and mental health condition
  • Accustomed lifestyle

Certain factors may also disqualify a person from receiving alimony like a history of abuse or certain charges on their criminal record. 

Additionally, if the receiving spousal doesn't have anything preventing them from working like small children, then alimony is not ordered.

Types of Alimony

Like many other matters governed by state law, alimony statutes vary from each jurisdiction. However, we can categorize the forms of alimony in four ways. They include:

  • Lump-sum

The recipient of lump-sum alimony receives the payment once and in bulk. 

This is customarily awarded in lieu of a property settlement when a spouse is not entitled to receive spousal support according to the state law. It means the court determines the division of the marital assets to support the receiving spouse. 

The lump-sum payment depends on factors such as the size of the marital estate and the needs of the recipient spouse.  

  • Permanent Alimony

Permanent spousal support is awarded to the recipient until they remarry or the payee or payor dies. 

The amount depends on the receiving spouse’s age, living expenses, health, and contribution made during the marriage. 

However, some states have a cohabitation clause that may suspend or terminate permanent spousal support. If the recipient spouse lives with a new partner, the court may end the alimony, regardless of whether the new partner provides support.

Permanent alimony may be adjusted if the circumstances change. These can include the recipient receiving financial freedom through the winning of the lottery, getting a high-paying job, an inheritance, or incurring medical expenses. Payments may be reduced if the paying partner retires, experiences job loss or a reduction in income. 

  • Temporary

Temporary alimony is awarded for a shorter period of five years or less, in many cases. 

It's given to the recipient spouse to support themselves after a divorce as they find ways to be financially independent. Usually, the court grants temporary alimony according to the receiving partner’s potential earning level and education and will most likely be awarded when the court feels the spouse needs additional support to establish their lives after divorce. The recipient  lifestyle during the marriage determines the amount.

  • Rehabilitative

Rehabilitative spousal support caters towards obtaining training or career education to enable the recipient  to start earning an income. It covers living and education expenses for three years or less.

Alimony in the different States

Alimony statutes are present in all American states but each state differs in requirements and types of spouse maintenance. This means, regardless of your current state, you can ask for alimony as long as you meet your particular state's criteria.  

New Jersey, West Virginia, North Carolina, Oregon, Florida, Vermont, Michigan, Connecticut, Virginia, Tennessee, Oregon, Mississippi, Washington, and New Hampshire may still grant permanent alimony. 

Most states reserve permanent alimony for spouses with severe illness or disability, with the length of the marriage acting as the determining factor. 

Ohio supports temporary and permanent alimony but under different factors like age and health, while Illinois mostly awards temporary and rehabilitative alimony. The other states have adopted temporary or rehabilitative alimony with permanent and lump sum alimony awarded in exceptional cases.

States like Georgia, California, Connecticut, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, West Virginia, Utah, Illinois, and South Carolina have laws that allow termination or modification of alimony upon remarriage or legally living romantically with another partner. 

New Jersey has an alimony laws that bar alimony support to parents who abuse, kill, or abandon their kids. While North Carolina and Georgia limit or deny alimony due to marital misconduct, abandonment, or adultery. Most States do not recognize no-fault divorce factors when awarding alimony.

Court Determination

For the court to determine whether the spouse maintenance is genuine, your lawyer needs to submit forms of statements and documents. Further, with different laws governing spousal support in each state, the legislation changes based on various family law aspects. 

To understand your state's law, avoid legal penalties, receive a fair amount, or modify your payment, you need to consult a knowledgeable alimony divorce lawyer.

Requirements for Payment of Spousal Support

For the payor to satisfy the requirements of spousal support, several conditions are needed, and they include:

  • The payment must be made in checks or cash. Paying off debts and assets are not considered spousal payment
  • The amount has to be in a written agreement
  • Payments made before the divorce don't act as spousal support
  • If the couple has submitted a joint tax return within that year, alimony is not applicable
  •  When both spouses live in the same residence, spousal support is not paid
  • In case of death of any spouse, alimony stops.

Please note that spousal support orders issued by your state courts are enforceable by law.

Conclusion

Alimony laws ensure that divorced spouses with income discrepancies do not suffer after the divorce. Understanding your state alimony laws will ensure you receive or pay the fair amount without complications.  

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