Alimony: How Courts Set the Support Amount
Alimony is paid when there is an agreement between two parties about the amount of money that will be paid to the other party each month. Alimony can also be paid if the court orders it. If you are not married, your parents may agree to pay you alimony. You can ask them to stop paying you alimony, or you and your spouse can ask the court to modify the amount of alimony that is due.
In many states, spousal support is not decided by a formula, but instead, by considering a number of factors. These factors include the length of time you've been married, your current income, any children you have together, and whether you're still living with your spouse.
When a couple gets divorced, the court will determine what kind of financial support the noncustodial parent must provide to the child. If there is no agreement about how much money should be paid, the court will usually divide the marital estate equally between the two parents. However, if the court finds that one parent is unable to financially support the child, then the court will order the other parent to pay a certain amount of money in addition to the fair share of the marital estate. The court will also consider the standard of living during the marriage, the dependent spouse's ability and willingness to maintain that standard after separation, and the dependent spouse’s separate income, assets, obligations, and expenses. The length of the marriage is important when calculating spousal support. If you're getting divorced, you'll need to figure out what your marital property is worth, and then divide it up fairly. You may also need to consider if there will be alimony payments after the divorce. Alimony is paid until the former spouse dies, remarries, reaches retirement age, or until the court terminates the payment. Each state has its own laws about alimony, so check with an attorney to see what the law says in your area. The court will also consider whether you are eligible for spousal support at all, and if so, how much. You'll need to show that your spouse has a job waiting for him or her and that he or she needs financial help to pay bills while looking for a job. If you're not sure about your spouse's ability to earn income, you might ask the court to order an evaluation of his or her earning capacity.
A judge will consider both parties' current incomes and whether there is any evidence that one party is intentionally depriving the other of an adequate amount of money. A judge will also look at the skills and education of each party, as well as what each party does for a living. For example, if one spouse works full time while the other stays home with children, the judge can infer that the stay-at-home parent is probably doing something valuable even though she doesn't bring in much money.
In some cases, if the lower-earning spouse was at fault for the divorce and/or the breakdown of the marriage, the court might reduce spousal support payments. For example, if the lower-income spouse engaged in adultery, was abusive, was dishonest about his income, etc., then the court might consider reducing the support payments. However, if the lower-paying spouse was not at fault, the court will likely not reduce the amount of spousal support paid.
Divorce isn't easy, even when both spouses agree on the split. You'll need to navigate through complex legal matters, figure out child custody arrangements, and negotiate alimony payments. While spousal support may help you get back on your feet financially, you will still be responsible for making sure you stay afloat until your next pay period. Don't forget about retirement accounts, investments, and insurance policies.
Some people may think about getting direct spousal support after divorce. If your spouse has a history of late payments and you worry that he/she will not pay, you should talk to a lawyer before signing any agreements. Some states allow you to ask the court to stay an earnings assignment until your spouse pays. You can also ask the court to end the stay of an earnings assignment. If your spouse does stop paying support, you can ask the court to end your stay of the earnings assignment and send the earnings assignment to your ex-spouse’s employer.
Judges look at a number of different factors when deciding how much alimony to give. These include the length of the marriage, age of both parties, the parties’ health, financial situations, ability to get back on track after divorce, and each party’s ability to pay and maintain an adequate standard of living. Economic opportunity is lost when you marry someone who doesn't pay taxes. Other factors the court thought were important included financial stability, family history, education level, age of the first child, number of children, religious beliefs, health status, and the quality of the parent's relationship.
Alimony payments may not exceed your net income minus debt. If you have a mortgage, car loan, student loans, credit card bills, etc., then you need to subtract those debts before calculating alimony. Alimony is calculated based on the difference between your current and future earning capacity. Your earning capacity is determined based on your education level, job experience, salary history, and other factors. If the court awards alimony, they will usually have a specific amount or duration. Alimony payments can also vary depending on whether the recipient is disabled, unemployed, or retired. The court can also award alimony even if neither party is asking for it, and the other partner does not need it.
If your divorce decree did not award spousal support, you may seek an increase in alimony payments at any time after your separation agreement is signed. You must file a motion requesting an increase in alimony within two years of the date your divorce becomes final. If you wait longer than two years, then you will lose your right to request an increase in alimony. Consult a divorce attorney in Harris County, Galveston County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County, Houston, Sugar Land, Missouri City, and Stafford, Texas at Thornton Esquire Law Group, PLLC, to help you understand more about alimony. Contact us today at thorntonesquirelawgroup.com for a free consultation.