Alimony Payments & Spousal Support
Family Law Lawyers: Spousal Support vs. Alimony
Alimony is financial support that is paid from one former spouse to the other. The amount, type, duration and tax treatment of alimony can vary widely. There are numerous factors that control whether alimony is awarded and, if so, in what amount and for what duration.
How is Alimony Determined?
The first step for the court is to determine if one party has a need. If there is a need for alimony, then the court must determine if the other spouse has an ability to pay alimony. If there is ability, then the court must determine what kind of alimony to award, in what amount and for what duration.
Types of Alimony
There are many different forms of alimony to address different situations. Courts can use one or multiple forms of alimony to support a spouse.
Permanent Periodic Alimony
This is long-term alimony that typically lasts until one of the parties is deceased or the receiving spouse remarries. This kind of alimony is typically awarded in long-term marriages (those that exceed 17 years from marriage to the filing of a divorce petition) but can also be awarded in shorter marriages when appropriate. It is subject to modification at any time upon a showing of a substantial change in circumstances and can be modified or terminated by court order. This type of alimony is typically taxable to the party receiving the alimony and a tax deduction to the party paying support.
This is alimony for a specific period of time. This alimony can vary widely in length and amount and is based on the need of one spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay. While the length can vary, the length of time the alimony is paid cannot exceed the length of the marriage (measured by the date of the marriage to the date of the filing of a divorce petition). Durational alimony is also modifiable.
This is alimony paid during the pendency of the divorce case. This kind of alimony is more common than many other forms of alimony as many spouses need support during the divorce proceedings. In an effort to make sure that spouses are properly supported and to reduce the number of hearings over temporary alimony, many jurisdictions have a standing order regarding the support of the spouse. A standing order is an order that is automatically issued in every case and can cover a wide range of issues. In the Eighth Judicial Circuit (which includes Alachua, Levy, Bradford, Baker and Gilchrist counties), there is a standing order the governs both the continued support of a spouse by preventing any changes in the normal payment of bills and general finances of the parties, as well as directing parties to continue the visitation or time sharing that has been typical for that family.
Lump Sum Alimony
Lump sum alimony is an award of alimony that is a specific amount and that amount is not subject to being modified once it is ordered. Lump sum alimony is far less common than other types of alimony when being ordered as a means of supporting a spouse (which is the typical purposes of an alimony award). Lump sum alimony is frequently used not as a means of support, but as a tool to achieve equitable distribution. The lump sum is often directed to be paid over a long period of time, with regular monthly payments, much in the way alimony is paid. This allows one spouse to essentially finance a “buy-out” of a marital asset such as a house or piece of property. When used as a form of equitable distribution, lump sum alimony is not tax deductible and is not usually enforceable by contempt. Additionally, lump-sum alimony is usually non-modifiable.
This is alimony to pay for a specific educational or work related plan designed to make the recipient self-sufficient. The key to an award of rehabilitative alimony is having a plan that is well designed and has a high chance of being successful. The plan must be written and should be as detailed as possible.
Will I have to Pay Alimony?
All of these types of alimony have different requirements and are awarded in different situations. Further, when looking at alimony from either the perspective of the payor or payee, it is important to look at not only the amount of alimony, but the duration, frequency, enforceability, the effect of alimony on child support (if applicable) and tax treatment of the alimony. Only an experienced family law attorney can analyze these issues related to alimony in a way that maximizes your results, whether you are paying or receiving alimony. For example, forgetting to consider the tax consequences of an alimony payment can cost you tens of thousands of dollars in unexpected liability depending on the size of your alimony payment.
Support Is More Than Just Alimony
For those seeking spousal support, it is important to remember that support means more than just the payment of alimony. The ways that one spouse can support the other spouse are extensive. For example, the court can order one party to carry health insurance, life insurance and other insurance benefits for the child or a former spouse. It can order which party has to pay certain expenses for the other spouse and determine in what percentage each party will be responsible for certain expenses. The court can also order that one party have exclusive use and possession of the marital home.
For More Information on Alimony,
Read Our Alimony FAQs
Contact Our Gainesville Divorce Lawyers
All of our family law lawyers have significant experience in pursuing alimony claims and defending against them. We know how to work to maximize results in your case. While alimony is dissimilar from child support in that there are no “guidelines”, our attorneys have significant local experience and understand what kind of alimony local judges will award in a given case. To talk to one of our divorce lawyers, contact The Law Office of Silverman, Mack & Associates in Gainesville, FL.