Alimony, or spousal support, is payments that are provided from a paying spouse to a receiving spouse in order to provide them with financial support during and after a legal separation or divorce. Alimony payments are made on a schedule that is determined by the court and typically in monthly installments.
Alimony may also be known as spousal maintenance in some states. It is ordered when a court determines during a legal separation or divorce proceeding that one spouse should financially support the other even though they will not be married any longer.
Alimony payments are intended to provide for the essential needs of the receiving spouse, including clothing, food, shelter, and transportation. The amount of the alimony payments is determined by considering several factors including the ability of the spouse to pay the specified monthly amount to the receiving spouse.
In some cases, alimony is ordered in order that a spouse can maintain the lifestyle they enjoyed during the marriage. It may also be ordered so that the receiving spouse can gain their financial independence. It may also be provided in order to prevent unfair economic effects of the separation or divorce.
Typically, when the receiving spouse is able to support themselves financially, the alimony payments are terminated. If the payments were ordered to maintain the receiving spouse’s standard of living, alimony payments may continue until they remarry.
How Do Alimony Payments Work?
If alimony payments are ordered, they may be in the form of one lump sum payment, a transfer of property, or monthly payments. The most common type of alimony is in the form of monthly payments. This type of alimony requires the paying spouse to provide a payment each month to the supported spouse, or receiving spouse.
In most cases, a lump sum alimony award or alimony in the form of a transfer of property is non-modifiable. In other words, it cannot be changed at a later date, terminated, or undone.
Monthly alimony payments will terminate on the date provided in the court order or when one of the following occurs:
- The receiving spouse remarries;
- The receiving spouse cohabitates;
- One of the spouses dies; or
- A significant event occurs, such as the retirement of the paying spouse or the receiving spouse obtaining more income.
As with the majority of issues in a divorce, the spouses are permitted to reach an agreement about the amount and length of time alimony payments will last. If the spouses cannot agree, a spouse will be required to file a motion with the court requesting alimony.
The court will schedule a hearing regarding alimony payments. Following the hearing, the court will issue an order which sets the terms for the alimony.
What is Temporary Alimony?
Temporary alimony is a type of alimony that is granted during the time when the divorce proceeding is pending. This type of alimony has been considered necessary in some cases due to the length of time it takes to finalize a divorce.
Temporary alimony is also available in cases of legal separation and domestic violence. This type of alimony is used to keep both parties stable financially until divorce proceedings are finalized. However, temporary alimony orders are not always provided and they depend on the facts of each case.
What is the Process of Obtaining a Temporary Alimony?
The first step in obtaining alimony is to inform the court that the individual needs a temporary alimony order by filing the required paperwork. It is important to have the help of a lawyer.
Once the court reviews the petition at the supporting financial documents, the court may hold a hearing, as noted above. Courts have discretion with regard to granting or denying a temporary alimony order.
It is important to gather all documents and financial materials as evidence for the hearing. The more clearly the petitioner articulates their financial situation, the easier it will be for a court to decide in their favor. An attorney is best equipped to present the most convincing case to the court.
What Factors do Courts Consider in Awarding Temporary Alimony?
The court may consider several factors when determining whether or not to award temporary alimony. These include:
- The length of the marriage;
- The age of the parties;
- The couple’s standard of living throughout the marriage;
- Each spouse’s mental and physical condition;
- The financial needs and financial resources of the spouses;
- The ability of each spouse to become self-sufficient by obtaining higher education;
- Each spouse’s contribution to marriage, financial and nonfinancial;
- If the amount is too burdensome on the paying spouse to meet their own financial needs; and
- The spouses’ ability to work while providing for any dependent children.
In addition, the court may consider whether or not the divorce is a no fault divorce. The court may also consider whether or not there was an agreement between the parties regarding alimony. The court also considers the financial capabilities of the paying spouse when setting the amount of temporary alimony.
The majority of states require that divorcing couples file and exchange preliminary financial disclosures. Typically, these forms provide detailed information regarding the financial situation of each spouse. This includes:
- Income; and
Temporary alimony orders may also include a temporary award of the marital home. It is also within the discretion of the court to award a spouse temporary alimony even if they are self-sufficient.
How are Temporary Alimony Orders Enforced by the Courts?
There are several reasons why a spouse may have a difficult time paying a court ordered alimony amount. There may be medical, employment, or ability to work issues. After determining why the payment was delayed, the spouses may come to an agreement to modify the alimony payments to better serve both of their situations.
However, if the paying spouse does not have a reason and is just avoiding the payments, the receiving spouse may involve the court. The court may order the paying spouse to provide the payments.
The court also has discretion to impose fines and order another form of punishment for a spouse that fails to follow a court order. The remedies available to the receiving spouse vary by state. These may include:
- Contempt. Failure to pay spousal support voluntarily may result in fines and possible jail time;
- Income withholding. A court can order the paying spouse’s employer to withhold the alimony payment or send it directly to the supporting spouse;
- Writ of execution. The court can order a portion of the paying spouse’s assets to be awarded to the supporting spouse; and
- Judgment and interest. The court can issue a money order judgment for large amounts of overdue alimony.
Can Temporary Alimony Orders Be Modified?
A court can modify a temporary alimony order based on a showing of changed circumstances. The change needs to be substantial and warrant a modification of the alimony order. The court must consider the receiving spouse’s need and the paying spouse’s ability to pay alimony.
How Long Does Temporary Alimony Last?
Temporary alimony terminates when the receiving spouse passes away or remarries. This alimony also terminates when the divorce is finalized.
However, a temporary alimony order may carry over to the final judgment of divorce, which changes the type of alimony into a permanent alimony order.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Temporary Alimony Issues?
You need the assistance of an experienced family lawyer for help with any temporary alimony issues you may have. A divorce can be extremely difficult for all parties involved and may create new financial burdens.
Your attorney can review your case, assist you in petitioning for temporary alimony, and represent you during any court proceedings. Divorce is extremely difficult, emotionally and financially, and an attorney is your best chance at obtaining alimony.