Spousal support, commonly referred to as alimony, is a court ordered payment made from one former spouse to the other. Spousal support may be issued in certain divorce or separation cases, and may be required when one party is more financially stable than the other.
A very common example of this is when one party has contributed to the relationship in non financial ways, such as homemaking, providing career and/or educational advancements, or contributing property during the relationship. Reimbursement spousal support may be awarded to the receiving spouse who worked full time, in order to allow the paying spouse to complete their education.
Spousal support amounts are determined by a number of factors that take into account the ability of one spouse to pay a specified amount of financial support to the other. These payments may be awarded so the receiving spouse may maintain their pre-divorce lifestyle, or allow them sufficient time to become financially stable and independent. Once the receiving spouse is financially stable, spousal support is then generally terminated as it no longer serves its purpose.
A spousal support arrangement may be permanent or temporary. Permanent spousal support refers to spousal support that is paid until some life changing event, such as the death or remarriage of the spouse. Temporary spousal support is generally paid when the couple separates, but the divorce is not yet final.
What is Spousal Support Fraud?
Spousal support fraud refers to a situation in which a person intentionally presents false information in relation to spousal support payments. This could present in a wide variety of ways. The party poised to receive spousal support payments may commit fraud in order to obtain a higher amount of money each month. Additionally, the paying party may commit fraud in order to pay less each month.
Some of the most common examples of spousal support fraud include:
- Falsifying income levels;
- Providing fraudulent tax information;
- Hiding assets during a divorce trial;
- Intentionally placing an incorrect value on property or assets; and
- Lying or making misrepresentations on the income and expense report provided to the court.
Spousal support fraud may be proven by using a number of different sources. These sources commonly include:
- Prior support statements;
- Tax returns;
- Income and bank statements;
- Pay stubs from work;
- Shopping or travel receipts;
- Witness statements; and
- Admissions from either party.
Legal penalties for spousal support fraud can include payment of damages, or criminal penalties associated with other types of fraud. Such penalties could include criminal fines and/or jail time.
What Else Should I Know About Spousal Support?
In order to file for spousal support, you will need to file a petition for alimony with the court. Most states include this petition as part of the original petition for divorce, and your spouse will need to be served the notice for spousal support. Should your spouse not consent to the spousal support requested, the court will then determine whether you should be granted your request by considering the following:
- Whether the couple was legally married;
- The length of the marriage;
- Each spouse’s current and future earning potential;
- Each spouse’s financial contribution to the marriage;
- Child custody considerations; and
- The age and health of each party.
Spousal support amounts are calculated on a state by state basis.This means that the way spousal support is calculated will depend on your state’s laws regarding divorce and spousal support. Some states consider fault when determining whether to grant a divorce, but it isn’t always a factor when the court is determining spousal support awards.
Spousal support orders can be modified, although you should continue to make your court scheduled payments until the court has determined whether to modify the order. Modification begins by petitioning the court and showing that you are entitled to the modification, based on some substantial change in circumstances since the order was first issued. Some common examples of a substantial change in circumstances include:
- The paying spouse has been laid off from their job and no longer has income with which to make payments;
- The paying spouse is now retired;
- The receiving spouse is now earning a significant increase in income;
- The receiving spouse remarries; or
- The paying spouse has become disabled.
A spousal support order may be terminated naturally, such as when the spouse in a permanent spousal support arrangement dies, remarries, or cohabitates with a new partner. In other arrangements, the court will terminate the order once it has been determined that the spouse no longer requires financial support in order to be stable.
Do I Need an Attorney for Spousal Support Fraud?
Proving spousal support fraud can be a difficult task, due to the fact that it is commonly difficult to detect in the first place. Therefore, if you believe you have a case for spousal support fraud, you should consult with a skilled and knowledgeable family law attorney.
An experienced family law attorney can help you determine whether or not the spousal support fraud has occurred, and file a legal claim on your behalf. Finally, they can represent you in court as needed.