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Alimony: What You Need to Know Before Divorce

Alimony: What You Need to Know Before Divorce

If you are contemplating divorce, it is important to consider what your state laws are regarding alimony and to ask your attorney what the exact parameters are in your state. Here are several things you should know about alimony before your divorce:

How is alimony determined in your state?

There are states where alimony is strictly determined by statute and/or have a specific formula that defines the amount and duration of alimony that is to be awarded. When this is the case, your attorney can give you a general idea of what you can expect to receive or be required to pay. On the other hand, there are states where there are no real parameters and alimony will be based solely on the recipient needs and the payor’s ability to pay.

Can you and your spouse come to an agreement on your own?

Even in states where alimony is strictly governed by statute, you and your spouse may be able to deviate from these statutes if you can come to an agreement on your own. Once approved by a judge and ordered in your divorce decree, whatever agreement you make concerning the amount and duration of alimony will become as enforceable as if it were determined by the court or legal statute.

What different types of alimony are available in your state?

In most states, alimony can be awarded permanently and indefinitely, or on a temporary basis until certain qualifications are met by the recipient. These may be referred to as temporary alimony, rehabilitative alimony, bridge the gap alimony, or reimbursement alimony. Depending on the state in which you live, you may be awarded any combination of both permanent and temporary alimony.

What triggers the termination of alimony in your state?

Typically, alimony must be paid for the entire duration specified in your divorce decree or settlement agreement. However, there are usually triggers that will terminate alimony automatically, such the death of a spouse, the recipient remarrying, or the recipient cohabitating with another partner.

What are the tax implication of alimony in your state?

For federal income tax purposes, alimony is usually treated as taxable income for the recipient and a tax deduction for the payor. What this means is that the recipient must pay taxes on alimony received, while the payer can deduct alimony payments from their taxable income.

Related: Alimony: Records You Should Keep After Divorce

Here are some other important things you should know about alimony before your divorce:

Your standard of living during the marriage is important

What standard of living did you and your spouse enjoy during your marriage? This is important because alimony is essentially designed to help the recipient maintain the same standard of living after the divorce.

Your standard of living during the marriage is important

Alimony is mostly likely to be awarded after long-term marriages

If you have been married for a relatively short period of time, alimony will most likely not be awarded. Whereas some states have established a baseline standard of at least 7 years, other states only restrict the amount of alimony you can receive, instead of stating how long you must married. Generally speaking, however, if you have been married for more than 10 years, alimony will be a factor in your divorce.

The age and employability of each party is big factor

To explain, if you are an elderly couple where the wife has been a homemaker for the last 30 years, the chances of her being retrained and able to earn a sustainable living will be slim. Consequently, she will likely be awarded permanent alimony to enable her to maintain the lifestyle you both enjoyed during the marriage.

Your individual financial resources can work against alimony

If you are the beneficiary of a trust fund that pays you regularly, or you individually own a profitable business, or if you are a professional with a salary of $500,000 per year (for example), this and any other financial resources or sources of income you have will work against your request for alimony.

Contact an experienced family law attorney

There are many things regarding alimony that you need to know before your divorce. This article only skims the surface of the topic. For more detailed information regarding alimony in the state in which you live, contact a local family law attorney who has an understanding of divorce law in your state.


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