Get Your Facts Straight About Spousal Support (Alimony)
If your blood pressure just shot through the roof, you wouldn’t be the only one. The word spousal support – still commonly referred to as alimony – has a tangible effect on everything from your finances to your health and well-being. Let’s take a closer look at ways it affects you (and your ex-spouse).
The purpose of alimony is to limit potentially unfair financial effects of a divorce on a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse. But how is the amount and duration of alimony determined?
Alimony Traditions and Trends
Courts have broad discretion here, but they have also been evolving alongside the culture. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act has gone through many major changes since it was first put into effect in 1970.
The traditional stance of viewing women as dependents and men as primary or sole breadwinners has eroded, not to mention that more men are playing a primary, nurturing parental role. That means that the tradition of men paying and women receiving alimony isn’t the law of the land anymore.
That said, courts will consider these factors when making a final decision on alimony awards:
- Age, physical condition, emotional state, financial condition of former spouses
- Length of time required for the recipient to become self-sufficient (education, professional training)
- Standard of living during marriage
- Length of marriage
- Ability to support the recipient and him/herself
What are some other trends to be aware of?
Apparently over the last decade, alimony has become less popular with courts. The nationwide trend is to award support in fewer cases and to limit the duration. The new trend is that where there isn’t a large disparity in income between two employed spouses, support is less likely to be awarded. The court implements an exception when a marriage lasts longer than ten years, resulting in automatic alimony, providing that the spouses’ earning capacities are not the same.
It’s obvious that spousal support (alimony) plays a very important role in divorce proceedings, but how does the decision get enforced in reality?
Alimony payments are a predictable source of conflict after the divorce. One method of avoiding this conflict is by means of support payments – these come directly out of the paying spouse’s wages. The paying spouse’s employer sends the money directly to the supported spouse, or in some cases, to a local government agency that forwards it. This is a smart, upfront solution to the problem.
But what if you’re already past that stage and you need to know what options are available to you now?
Your attorney can help by filing a motion to enforce the alimony judgment, asking the court to order the paying spouse to immediately bring the payments up to date. A Writ of Execution can take a month or more to conclude. If the situation has turned into an emergency, your attorney can help you file an Order to Show Cause, which gets expedited before the court.
One benefit of the Writ of Execution is that it can negatively impact the delinquent ex-spouse’s credit rating, which incentivizes prompt payment. If you’ve pursued an ex-spouse for alimony payment violations, you can also request that the court award you for any fees you have had to pay an attorney to pursue your claim.
Alimony awards can be modified if circumstances have substantially changed. It is within the paying spouse’s rights to file for a reduction or elimination of alimony due to change in circumstances.
Spousal support, or alimony, is one of the most contentious aspects of moving on from a divorce. If you have questions, consult with a team of attorneys at LegalShield.
This is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact a professional for further information.