Your Guide to Alimony: What You Need to Know Before a Divorce
Alimony is a payment from one spouse to the other after a divorce. Also known as spousal support, alimony is typically used to provide financial assistance to an ex-spouse who may otherwise struggle to make ends meet. It can also be used in instances where one spouse is unable to take care of themselves financially due to age, health, or disability that prevent them from working.
Before pursuing a divorce and considering alimony, it’s important for couples to familiarize themselves with the laws regarding alimony in their state of residence. Additionally, they should consider factors such as the length of the marriage and each spouse’s individual income and future earning potential when determining if any payments are justified on one end or another. Knowing how much should be paid and worked out before beginning a marriage dissolution agreement can help ensure that both parties receive what they need in order to begin rebuilding successful lives independently. Additionally, there are often regulations concerning tax deductions and filing requirements which should be taken into careful consideration before entering into any deal concerning alimony payments.How Courts Decide Alimony
When making decisions regarding the awarding of alimony, courts consider a variety of factors when determining if support should be granted and in what amount. Generally, state laws provide judges with guidelines to enable them to make fair and consistent rulings. For example, states typically provide temporary support during divorce proceedings as well as post-divorce alimony. The duration and obligations for such payments are also determined according to state law. Some states may even grant rehabilitation alimony that is intended to allow an under-employed or unemployed individual to gain education or training from a trade school or college in order to increase their earning potential and render their services in the job market.
Alimony is typically meant for maintenance purposes and its purpose is not necessarily related to enforcing a debt or punishing wrongful behavior on behalf of either party. Judges will also consider more subjective factors such as quality of life pre-divorce, future needs of both parties, potential tax ramifications, and other related matters when determining a support payment amount and duration. A court may consider any relative misconduct by one spouse when settling this matter, however, they will attempt to make judgments based on both spouses' financial situations rather than one party's actions alone.Deciding Whether to Award Post-Divorce Alimony
When a judge is considering whether to award post-divorce alimony, they must consider several different factors. These typically include the length of the marriage, the standard of living established during the marriage, any significant changes in income after the divorce, and each party’s need for financial support. Different states may have additional requirements for justices to consider before awarding alimony payments; for instance, in Texas a presumption that spousal maintenance isn’t appropriate outside certain limited circumstances exists.
Ultimately, the decision of whether or not to award alimony will take into account both parties' financial needs and abilities. The judge could potentially order an “award” of spousal support forever with no periodic reviews (if both work out an Amicable Divorce Agreement). Alternatively, depending on circumstance and state law, there could also be a review process at regular intervals (either as required by state law or per agreement) where either side can technically challenge or request a modification of payment amounts. Judges may also order temporary alimony payments pending further review when necessary.Factors to Consider When Determining the Amount of Spousal Support
When making a decision about how much spousal support to award, judges must carefully consider all relevant factors. Perhaps the most important factor is the couple's standard of living during the marriage, as well as how each spouse would be able to maintain a similar lifestyle after divorce. In cases where one spouse has been unemployed for periods of time in order to take care of family duties, it may be appropriate for them to receive more financial help. It is also important for judges to take into consideration the length of the marriage, the age, and health of both spouses, and any other relevant factors that can be proven in court.
Another factor that might influence how much spousal support is awarded is if either party has committed adultery or behaved in an irresponsible or cruel manner towards their partner during the marriage. Judges will also look at each individual's financial resources and potential ability to pay child support so that each child gets adequate care while they are growing up. Additionally, judges may take into account non-economic contributions such as providing emotional support or being a homemaker if either party cannot secure suitable employment due to circumstances outside their control. The judge's overall aim should be to ensure that both parties have enough resources necessary to live without detrimentally affecting their livelihood.Determining the Duration of Spousal Support
When it comes to deciding how long spousal support should last, the rules for determining the length of time vary. In some states, there may be a specific time limit set by law as to when alimony payments must end, whereas others may provide more general guidance such as half of the length of the marriage or no longer than the marriage lasted. Additionally, this guideline may differ based on whether a short-term or long-term marriage is involved, with a ten-year span typically being considered long-term.
When making these decisions, judges will typically consider the same factors that are taken into account when determining support amounts. But in such cases where an extended period of maintenance payments could be beneficial for the receiving spouse getting back on their feet and becoming self-supportive, he or she might grant judges "reserved jurisdiction," whereby they can extend payment duration when needed. This can be invaluable in situations where both parties mutually want alimony to continue beyond its originally determined termination date.Talk to a Lawyer
An experienced family law 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, can help you explain and navigate the entire case process. Contact us today at www.thorntonesquirelawgroup.com for a free consultation.