What is Alimony?


Alimony meaning

Alimony, spousal support, or spousal maintenance are generally grounded on the idea that a divorced spouse has the right to live the same quality of life that he or she previously had before filing for divorce. While alimony can be awarded to either one of the divorcing spouses, it is the husband that has historically been the breadwinner. A wife who would likely have given up a career to raise the children will be at a financial disadvantage after a legal separation or a divorce case.

State laws governing divorce cases vary from state to state. In general, however, alimony will often be awarded to ex-spouses of long-term marriages and will only stop in case of death, remarriage, retirement, or pertinent court order. This periodic predetermined payment awarded to a spouse or former spouse should allow the recipient to continue the lifestyle to which they are accustomed, even after divorce. Refusing to pay or not keeping up to date with alimony payments may result in civil or criminal charges. If you have legal questions on these things, consult with a trusted Orem divorce and family law attorney.


Providing Financial Support to the Spouse with Lower Income (or No Income at All)

The nature of court-ordered payments awarded to a spouse or former spouse within a separation or divorce agreement has significantly changed over the years. In prior decades, a divorce proceeding requires one spouse to abuse, infidelity, or irreconcilable differences as grounds for divorce. Here, a fault is used as grounds to get alimony or marital support payments. Additionally, if the supported spouse is the at-fault party, the alimony award could be reduced. Essentially, the alimony is based on economic factors but could be increased or reduced based on misconduct.

At present, however, no-fault divorce laws enable a spouse to file for a divorce regardless of either side’s reasons. According to statutes that are currently in place, gender-based consideration is no longer applicable. This means that alimony is granted based on the actual earning capacity and marital roles of the married couple.


Understanding this Legal Obligation and the Basis for Alimony

There are many instances where the family court determines that alimony is not necessary, since both parties have similar annual incomes and thus can support themselves. However, in divorce filings where alimony was awarded, the lower-earning spouse will either receive alimony payments for a perpetual or temporary time.

The current and future potential income for both spouses, together with the length of the marriage, influences how much alimony a spouse must pay (and for how long). Temporary alimony payments (alimony pendente lite) are made after a couple separates or divorces. These will then stop once a permanent alimony award is granted, or after a permanent order is given after a new hearing and once the divorce is final.

Depending on the actual circumstance of the divorce proceedings, the judge may determine an expiration date for the alimony decree. After this time, the payer is no longer required to make payments and provide financial support to the other party. Similarly, alimony could be terminated if a former spouse remarries, if children no longer require a parent at home, or if a judge deems that the recipient is not making efforts to be self-sufficient.


The Need for Spousal Support and Determining the Amount of Alimony

When considering alimony, the courthouse will likely look at the annual or monthly income of both spouses, their age, physical condition, emotional state, and financial condition, and their standard of living during the marriage. Whether one spouse supported the other during his or her education, or if the lesser earning spouse needs further education or training will also be factored based. A hands-on Orem family law lawyer can further explain divorce and alimony laws that may apply to you.

At present, physical or sexual abuse, emotional abuse, infidelity, or acts of the non-abusing spouse to endure excess burdens during the marriage are referred to as marital misconduct. In general, if the supporting spouse engaged in misconduct, the court can increase the payment ordered. Conversely, if the other spouse engaged in misconduct, pendente lite alimony might not be granted or the permanent alimony award might be reduced. 

Alimony should not be confused with child support payments, since the latter is meant to support one or more children from a dissolved relationship or marriage. Alimony also does not include noncash property settlements or voluntary payments, and missed payments for alimony are not discharged in bankruptcy. Additionally, alimony payments were seen as a deductible expense (of the payor) and taxable income of the receiver by the IRS. Recently, however, tax deductions for alimony paid for divorce agreements were generally eliminated and alimony recipients will no longer owe federal tax on this support. 


Seeking Legal Advice from a Trusted Local Attorney

When married couples separate, living expenses rise and the financial stability of the marital home disappears. Most of the time, one party will need financial support from the other to make ends meet. Alimony, however, is not automatic for every divorce petition. In cases where a spouse brings to court a request for alimony and the judge determines that an alimony award is appropriate, the higher-earning spouse will have to pay alimony after the divorce decree is finalized.

If you have clarifications on any of the above, call our Utah family and divorce law firm. Contact us at the Gravis Law and consult with experienced Orem family law attorneys.