Alimony is money that one spouse pays to the other after a divorce. Sometimes alimony is called spousal support or spousal maintenance. Each state has its own laws on alimony. Generally, alimony is not an automatic right and judges are not required to order it. Whether you receive or pay alimony depends on your situation and the rules in the state where you live.
Most people think that alimony is only awarded to women, but men may also receive it. For example, a man who stayed home to care for a child while his wife worked can be granted alimony.
The judge hearing your divorce case typically will consider your income and bills before ordering you to pay alimony. It might not be ordered at all if you cannot afford to pay. The judge understands that you need enough money to support yourself. If you are ordered to pay alimony and fail to do so, you can be sent to jail for contempt of court. A judge can deduct money directly from your bank account or paycheck to pay delinquent alimony.
Alimony and Spousal Support
Judges may award alimony for different reasons. You might be granted alimony if you were dependent on your spouse during your marriage. By ordering your former spouse to pay alimony, the judge is giving you time to get a job or develop new skills so you can support yourself. The likelihood that you'll be granted alimony is greater if you are older and were married a long time. Alimony also may be ordered if you cannot work outside the home because you must care for a special needs child.
Generally, a judge considers your marital lifestyle when ordering alimony. For example, if you are a homemaker, alimony can help you stay in your home while you attend college. Judges try to help spouses who earn less money maintain their standard of living while making financial adjustment to single life. The judge can modify your alimony if your life circumstances change. For instance, if you remarry, your alimony payments might be reduced or terminated.
Lump Sum Alimony
Alimony is usually ordered for a set amount of time, such as $1,000 a month for three years. A judge may also order a one-time alimony payment. If you worked to pay for your husband's medical school tuition, for example, the judge might order your husband to reimburse you in one lump sum. Spouses may also agree to a lump sum settlement instead of alimony payments spread over time.
A Divorce Lawyer Can Help
The laws surrounding divorce and spousal support can be complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a divorce attorney.