Do You Owe Alimony? 4 Considerations In Spousal Support

Alimony: it’s a topic of great contention in the world of divorce, but these payments play an important role in the dissolution of marriages. But before we dive into how these payments are determined, let’s look more closely at what alimony entails.

The Meaning of Alimony 

Alimony, also known as spousal support, may be permanent or temporary, depending on such factors as earnings (or earning potential) at the time of a divorce. It can be ordered as payment to either the husband or the wife, and in addition to or absent child support payments.

Unfortunately, on a cultural level, alimony is often portrayed as exclusively paid by men to their ex-wives, and this is because of income imbalances and sexist history. Originally, alimony payments stemmed from a relationship of possession; a man could divorce a woman, but he was still responsible for her well-being. However, as women become equally or more likely to be the primary earner in a relationship, alimony is shedding that connotation and the balance is shifting.

Additionally, though alimony is frequently ordered for a limited period of time, it’s almost always portrayed as a lifelong responsibility and one that exists for most divorces. This also adds to the negative connotations attached to spousal support and erases the reasons why it exists in the first place.

What Determines Alimony?

In cases when alimony is ordered, judges and lawyers use a complex array of factors to determine how much an individual owns. To get a sense of what factors matter, you can look at this alimony calculator. This calculator includes such factors as length of the marriage, average gross income of each party, physical and emotional health, and earning capacity. Each of these details plays into the determination of alimony and the court can reevaluate payments as time goes on.

Of course, many individuals dispute whether they owe alimony at all, which is understandable. No one wants to pay money to the person they’re divorcing. In order to argue for reduction or elimination of alimony payments, though, you need to understand how the determining factors fit together.

If you’re worried about alimony payments, here are 4 questions you need to ask.

  1. Is My Ex Willing To “Refuse” Alimony?The easiest way to avoid having to pay alimony is having a spouse who doesn’t want to receive it. But why would they choose to refuse payments?

    Generally, individuals refuse alimony because they want the marriage to be really and truly over – it’s a way of cutting ties and avoiding subsequent trips to court. Yes, there’s some satisfaction in divorcing someone and still receiving money from them, but if it’s keeping the payee from moving on with life, that’s a good reason for them to refuse it. No alimony, especially in cases with no children, means the marriage is done and you never need to think about each other again when you make a major life decision.

  2. Can Property Bridge The Gap? 

    One of the reasons that alimony feels so onerous is that, especially when ordered on a permanent basis, it takes not just your current financial situation into account, but also considers all future resources. That includes retirement savings, Social Security payments, and more. If future resources are likely to be widely disparate, it can be in the higher earner’s best interest to avoid alimony.Though it may not be possible depending on your earnings and amount of shared property, you may want to consider whether transferring property into the sole ownership of the alimony recipient could help reduce your future obligations. Assuming appreciation or investment of earnings from the sale of the property, you may be able to make an equitable agreement, or at least find an agreeable alternative to alimony.

  3. Does My Ex Have Transferrable Skills? 

    Alimony is predicated largely on the non-earning or low-earning status of one individual and their need for support, even if only for a limited period of time. This is a reasonable expectation since they will need housing, transportation, and other basic supports. On the other hand, just because someone isn’t working, doesn’t mean they can’t work.Rather than focusing on a narrow definition of employment potential, consider whether or not your ex has transferrable skills that would allow them to be employed in a different field than they’ve worked in before. This is often possible, but without fully exploring the options, it’s easy for the court to accept that the individual in question has little or no earning ability, or requires re-training in a new field.

  4. Has My Ex Met Someone? 

    It’s common knowledge that alimony payments stop if your ex remarries, but that’s not the only way to have your payments reduced. For example, if your marriage has ended due to infidelity, your ex may be planning to move in with their new partner. Cohabitation alone may be enough to petition for a reduction of payments, now or in the future.

While other factors, such as unemployment or disability, may ultimately impact your alimony payments, these are some helpful starting questions, especially at a time when divorce-related payments are becoming more fraught. Specifically, as a result of tax reform, alimony payments will no longer be tax deductible. This can make it financially untenable for couples in lower income brackets to get divorced since the deduction “incentivized” these payments in the past, creating what’s termed a “divorce subsidy.”

More Money, More Problems?

When getting a divorce, being a big earner certainly doesn’t make things easier, and it can actually complicate things for years to come. That’s why you can’t go it alone. Contact Rowdy G. Williams Law Firm for help managing your divorce proceedings. As your legal support, our role is not to focus on equity, but on protecting your assets so that you come away from your divorce in the best possible position – today and down the road.

Don’t let alimony payments weigh you down when divorce should set you free. With support from Rowdy G. Williams Law Firm, you can move past your divorce and onto the next phase of your life. More money shouldn’t mean more problems – why should your divorce hinge on that simple equation?