Alimony is the spousal support that is the amount of money awarded to one of the spouses after a divorce. It is generally determined on a case-by- case basis. Alimony is designed to assist the spouse that was not earning income in the marriage, but still contributed to the marriage by supporting the husband and the children at home. For example, a wife that decides to put a hold on her career to stay at home and run the housework while taking care of the kids. 

Another reason for alimony is for the spouse to continue living the same standards of lifestyle as it was during the marriage. However, alimony usually is not awarded for short marriages or where the spouses earn close to the same amount.

How Long Must Alimony Be Paid?

The court generally determines the time period of which the alimony must be paid. The order can specify to pay the spouse as long as they become self-sufficient. Also most alimony awards terminate once the recipient spouse remarries. However, if there is a medical condition or the spouse is unlikely to sustain any employment, the court may award alimony in the form of a life estate. In additional these are also some circumstances of when alimony payments end:

  • Your children does not require a full-time parent at home;
  • A judge determines that after a some period of time, your spouse fails to make sufficient effort to become at least partially self-supporting;
  • Another significant event occurs such as retirements, convincing a judge to modify the amount paid and;
  • One of you passes away.

Recently, alimony has gone through a change. Traditionally, the bread-winning husbands would pay the wife alimony for their non-financial support. However, recently with women working and earning wages just like the men they are no longer considered financially dependent on the husband. Courts have now awarded ex-husband alimony from their working wives. 

What Factors are Considered For Determining Alimony?

  • The income each spouse is making and how much they can afford monthly to pay;
  • Determine what the reasonable expenses will be for them each month;
  • The standard of lifestyle during the marriage;
  • The age, physical condition, emotional state, and financial condition of the parties;
  • The length of time the recipient would need to become self-sufficient;
  • The length of the marriage; and
  • The paying spouse’s ability to support the recipient and still support himself or herself.

Why Should You Keep a Record of Alimony Payments?

Both the payer of the alimony and the recipient of alimony should try to keep a record of the payments to avoid disputes in the future. Since alimony is considered tax-deductible for the paying spouse and constitutes taxable income for the supported spouse, it is critical to keep a record for IRS purposes.

The alimony payer should keep a track of all the following documents along with the payments being made to the supporting spouse:

  • A list showing details of each payment such as the date, check number, and address to which the check was sent;
  • The originals of checks used for payments (be sure to note on each check the month for which the support is being paid) and;
  • Payment receipts, signed by the recipient, if cash was paid.

Additionally, the recipient spouse needs to keep a record of all the important documents as well. The spouse should keep a record of: 

  • The date the payment was received and amount received; 
  • The check number or other identifying information;
  • The account number on which any check is with the written name of bank on which check is drawn or money order issued;
  • A photocopy or scan of the check or money order and;
  • A copy of signed receipts you give for cash payments.

Furthermore, if your spouse refuses to pay, you can request the court to demand payment from the spouse. If the payer spouse continues to miss payments or fails to make them all together they could be facing fines and possible jail time. Therefore, it is important to keep a track of the payments. You should ensure that if you are paying, you have a way to validate that, especially if a dispute arises among the spouses.

When Do I Need to Contact an Alimony Lawyer?

Going through a divorce is both financially and emotionally draining. Therefore, when it comes to alimony payments it is useful to seek out a professional in your area by consulting a family law attorney to figure out your unique case. 

Alimony payments will vary and several factors are taken into consideration. If there is a dispute among the couple and they are not able to agree on an alimony amount, the courts will decide the amount of alimony awarded to the recipient spouse, along with the factors regarding the spousal support.