In a divorce proceeding, there are a number of issues that the parties and the judge must decide on, from custody arrangements and child support to property division. One that causes quite a bit of confusion is the concept of alimony, also known as spousal support.
Alimony is money that a court orders one spouse to pay to the other either during the divorce or a specified amount of time afterwards. It is possible to receive spousal support in Arkansas, as long as you show circumstances that warrant it. Here is a short guide to alimony in Arkansas.
There are three main categories of spousal support awarded by Arkansas judges. The first is known as “pendente lite” support, a temporary form of alimony where the judge orders one spouse to pay a certain amount during the divorce proceedings. The other two types are awarded after a divorce is final, and fall generally into the categories of temporary and permanent.
Temporary spousal support is meant to terminate after a certain amount of time, ideally to give the spouse in a weaker financial position the time to get back on their feet and independent. This often involves money for job training or education. It can also be viewed as a way to reimburse one spouse for supporting the other through, such as law or medical school.
Permanent alimony is rarely awarded these days, and only in specific circumstances. If a spouse will not be able to support themselves for the foreseeable future due to advanced illness or age, a judge may give them permanent alimony. Of course, the two spouses can always negotiate a spousal support schedule and even agree to a lump sum payout if that serves both parties’ interests.
The ideal time to ask for alimony/spousal support is at the very beginning, when you file your initial petition for divorce, along with the reasons you believe the court should grant it. If you don’t ask for alimony right away, you will need to file an amendment to the petition requesting support and why (however, the sooner, the better).
After spousal support is formally requested, the court will have both parties complete an Affidavit of Financial Means. This document should include information like bank statements, credit card and other debt information, pay stubs, proof of monthly expenses, and any other relevant financial information. Be sure to include everything you have. If you withhold certain assets to get more spousal support, you may be held in contempt of court or face other negative consequences.
There is no specific chart or formula that Arkansas uses to determine a dollar amount for alimony. Instead, the courts consider a number of different factors and look at the overall circumstances of each case to determine what is fair. The judge will consider the couple’s pre-divorce living status, each person’s career prospects and financial status upon divorce, and the length of the marriage.
Longer marriages are more likely to create inequalities between spouses economically. Thus the longer the marriage, the more likely spousal support is needed after the divorce. This is not necessarily a strict list, either. The judge can take other relevant factors into account when determining the amount and/or length of alimony payments. The family judge in your case has wide latitude in determining what spousal support is appropriate for that specific case.
Of course, not all spousal support orders are set in stone. Either spouse can file for modification or termination of payments for unexpected events in one or both of their lives. If the paying spouse loses their job or is diagnosed with a debilitating illness, they can formally request that the judge reduce or eliminate support payments altogether. The receiving spouse can request an increase if there is a change in living expenses due to inflation or the paying spouse sees a significant rise in their income.
Of course, both spouses can modify or terminate support upon mutual agreement that is filed with the court. It is also important to note that remarriage automatically terminates alimony unless the spouses agree in writing to the contrary. Also, a request for modification can be made on the basis of cohabitation (one party moves in with a new partner or has a child with a new partner).
Yes. Any legal proceeding can quickly become confusing and complicated, and this is even more true in a stressful situation like a divorce. If you are getting divorced and think you are entitled to spousal support, be sure to seek out the services of a family law attorney in Arkansas to explain your legal situation to you and be your advocate through the entire process.