To better understand the types of disputes that can arise when a party is seeking alimony, it is helpful to know exactly what alimony is first. Alimony, commonly referred to as spousal support, consists of monthly payments that are made by one spouse to the other spouse when the couple becomes separated or gets divorced.
A court will determine the amount that should be paid to the receiving spouse by analyzing a number of different factors, such as the lifestyle that the receiving spouse is used to or the ability of that spouse to support themselves financially without the help of the other spouse. This information will then be enforced by an official order that is filed with the issuing court.
If circumstances arise where one or both of the parties seek to modify or terminate their spousal support order, then they will be required to request the court’s permission and will have to wait for a new order that adjusts the initial agreement accordingly.
What are Alimony Disputes?
Alimony disputes refer to the legal conflicts that can occur regarding the subject of spousal support. One of the most common scenarios in which an alimony dispute arises is when the paying spouse fails to keep up with their required monthly duty of having to pay the other spouse.
Other alimony disputes that frequently arise include the following examples:
- Disputes over the amount agreed upon to be paid;
- Where one spouse submits a request to terminate their responsibility of paying spousal support;
- When the paying spouse has intentionally concealed additional assets in an attempt to avoid paying a higher amount of alimony;
- Disputes involving children or other dependents; and
- When the receiving spouse tries to hide some assets during a divorce in order to receive a larger payment award.
Alimony agreements are often and should be supported by a court order to ensure that they will be enforceable by law. Receiving an official court order can help prevent the possibility of alimony disputes in the future. Thus, if the parties are entering into a spousal support agreement, then they should submit it to the court for a formal approval.
How are Alimony Disputes Settled?
Resolving an alimony dispute is much easier when there is already an existing court order setting the amount and type of alimony the couple agreed upon. This way, if a dispute occurs, the court can simply refer to the existing order and determine which party may be the one at fault for causing the dispute.
In cases where it may not be so clear regarding which party is actually at fault, the court may need to examine other documents for evidence, such as:
- Bank account statements (for both separate and joint bank accounts);
- Receipts for major purchases made by either of the parties;
- Pay stubs or other employment-related documentation; and
- Verified receipts for major gifts or donations made to another party.
Sometimes the solution to an alimony dispute can be resolved by modifying the amount of alimony payments. This can help the parties reach a compromise, especially if either of the parties have recently faced a significant change in circumstances.
For example, if the paying spouse becomes incapacitated or involuntarily loses their job, then the court may consider adjusting the amount of spousal support that they are required to pay to the receiving spouse.
In cases where violating the spousal support order is extremely serious, a court may order a damages award to be given to the receiving party in order to make up for that plaintiff’s losses. If the paying party still refuses to make alimony payments, then the court can sometimes order a lien to be placed on their property to ensure the payments will be made.
Additionally, a party who repeatedly violates their spousal support order can be held in contempt of court and may face certain criminal consequences for their actions.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Issues Involving Alimony?
Alimony or spousal support orders can often pose some fairly complex legal problems. This is partially due to the fact that every state has its own alimony laws. Another issue that often complicates alimony matters is being able to prove that one of the spouses is at fault.
As such, if you have any questions or concerns regarding an alimony claim, then you should consider contacting a local family law attorney for assistance. An experienced family law attorney can provide legal advice regarding your rights, as well as discuss the best possible legal path to take in order to protect your interests.
Additionally, a lawyer can help you during the negotiations for a spousal support agreement, or alternatively, represent you in court if necessary.
Finally, an attorney can also assist you with the process of filing for either a request for modification or termination of your alimony agreement.