Who should Pay Alimony?

Mar 31

Some divorces do not totally sever the responsibility of one spouse over the other for there is what is termed as alimony or spousal support, wherein one spouse will need to provide financial support to the other to ascertain that the dependent spouse will not live a financially-troublesome life. This is the primary purpose of alimony which state courts always see to. Courts observe the policy of making sure that the spouses and the children are able to continue to enjoy the standard of living they enjoyed before the divorce. Thus, if one spouse gave up all chances for professional and economic growth for the sake of his/her partner and their family, then the more financially able spouse will be required by the court to provide him/her with financial support upon divorce.

Women, traditionally, were the recipients of alimony since it was them who were often required (by societal standards) to cease work and care for the home after marriage. Providing for her and for the rest of the family was, of course, the duty of the husband – the man of the house.

Life’s circumstances, however, have greatly changed. Today, more men than women are without work, making them contribute more time to child-care and in the performance of household chores, while more and more workplaces are being populated by single women and mothers.

The earning capacity of both men and women has changed too with many women now able to earn even much more than their partner in life. Due to these significant changes in economic situation and opportunities, the recipient of alimony can now also be a former husband.

Alimony is a court-mandated monetary payment that one spouse should make to his/her former partner; it is also known under the names spousal support or spousal maintenance. When making decisions on the issue of alimony, courts usually consider the following factors:

  • earning capability of both spouses;
  • age and health of the spouses;
  • earned and potential income, and assets of both spouses; and,
  • length of marriage.

There are different types of alimony or forms of payment recognized in the United States:

  • Temporary alimony or alimony pendente lite: this type of alimony is awarded to one spouses even while the divorce case is still pending;
  • rehabilitative: this type of alimony serves as a re-education or re-training support that will help one spouse find a good-paying job and, so, become self-sufficient;
  • permanent: this court-ordered regular payment (usually monthly) is to enable the recipient spouse to continue to enjoy the standard of living that he/she enjoyed before the divorce. This ends, however, when the recipient spouse remarries or dies, or if the court modifies its order.
  • lump sum: if the spouse supposed to provide spousal support has been deemed as totally irresponsible in ensuring the monthly payment to his/her former partner, then the court may order this single lump sum alimony payment instead.

Failure to pay spousal support can merit the contempt of court. The punishment accompanying this failure can include fines, imprisonment, wage garnishment, liens on property and seizure of earnings, such as earnings from tax refund.

As explained in the website of the law firm Marshall & Taylor PLLC, “When it comes to alimony, there are a number of different legal issues that often need to be addressed. For these and other concerns relating to alimony arrangements, it is often best to have an experienced legal representative on your side, ensuring your interests and needs are represented and heard.

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