07 Jan How to Determine if You or Your Spouse Qualifies for Alimony
Divorce is never an easy process. If you have been married for a long time, the decision to divorce can be a costly one in terms of finances, the amount of time consumed, as well as the emotional challenges that must be faced. When it comes to dividing financial responsibility between spouses, there are several ways to go about it. First is the division of assets (equitable distribution), then comes child support (if you share children with your spouse), and finally, there is alimony. Each aspect is addressed differently. Today, we’re going to discuss alimony. More specifically, how to determine if you or your spouse qualify, how much will be taken, and for how long.
Before we can understand how to determine eligibility for alimony, we must first understand what it is. Alimony is the payment from one spouse to another for a predetermined length of time. This can also be referred to as “spousal support” or “maintenance”, depending on your state. The basic idea is that if one spouse makes considerably less than the other, the partner with the higher earnings may have a financial responsibility to take care of the other until their needs are sufficiently met without these payments.
It’s important to note that alimony is very different from child support; this system goes into effect if the recipient is unable to earn enough for themselves, and (depending on the form of alimony) typically only lasts for a set period of time, or as long as it takes before they can earn more income. The consequences for the non-payment of Alimony may also be seen as not as severs as the non-payment of child support, which has the option of wage garnishment or liens on property. Alimony is still a court order, however, so if your spouse refuses to pay, you can take them to court for a post-dissolution motion for enforcment in order to enforce the marital settlement agreement.
To determine whether or not you or your spouse can qualify for alimony, there are certain factors that are taken into consideration. These factors include, but are not limited to age, income level, duration of the marriage, quality of life before the divorce, whether or not children are involved, and each spouse’s financial habits before and during the marriage. What can also be taken into account are any indiscretions, such as cheating. This can either help or hinder alimony payments, depending on who did the cheating. (see Florida Statute 61.08)
Since each case is different, determining whether (or not) a spouse will qualify for alimony can vary by case, and by the state. Some states have more rigid stipulations regarding the amount and duration of alimony payments, and other states are much more flexible. Not only will the court look at your marriage and current income levels, but they will also work to determine how capable the receiving spouse is concerning finding a job. If the recipient became unemployed to take care of children, for example, it could be difficult for them to re-enter the workforce.
That being said, alimony is still designed to be a temporary measure, so usually, it will only be paid for a specific amount of time, rather than for the rest of the recipient’s life. Other factors that can affect alimony are remarriage, disability, and increased or decreased income levels. For example, if the payer starts making considerably less, then they might not have to continue alimony payments.
When it comes to alimony, the amount and duration are set forth by the courts, or by the spouses themselves in the form of an agreement. Because of its (typically) temporary status, however, the paying spouse will usually have the option to either make monthly payments or pay it off in one lump sum. If a single payment is feasible (usually meaning that the spouse has the necessary funds to do it), then it could actually be a much better option, for both partners.
For the recipient, it means that they could potentially earn more money, since the total amount is an estimate, and can be changed down the line. For the payer, it means that they can make a clean break, without having to worry about keeping up with monthly payments for an extended period. Additionally, making one lump sum payment also avoids the hassle of enforcement down the road, in case the payer chooses not to honor the agreement.
When it comes to divorce, there are a lot of factors that have to be diligently and comprehensively drawn out, so that both parties are taken care of after the split. That being said, each case is different, so it can be difficult to determine what steps need to be taken, and what options are available to both spouses. If you have questions regarding this complicated and emotional issue, feel free to contact us, and we can help you through it.