Spousal Support (Alimony)



Upon separation or divorce, in some cases a judge may order one party to pay spousal support (alimony or separate maintenance) to his or her spouse. If awarded, the type, the duration and amount of alimony will be determined primarily by the length of the marriage, the need of one party for support, the ability of the other party to pay the support and the standard of living the parties have enjoyed together.

A Trial Judge may order temporary support from the time of the filing of a Dissolution of Marriage action (divorce case) or the time of filing of a Petition for Support Unconnected with Dissolution of Marriage. At the time of the Final Judgment, the Trial Judge may order permanent alimony (to continue until the death of either spouse or the remarriage of the receiving spouse), durational alimony (support paid for a set period of time, not to exceed the length of the marriage), bridge-the-gap alimony (meant to bridge the gap between living as a married couple and supporting yourself), rehabilitative alimony (support for a specific purpose that is meant to fund a plan to allow the receiving spouse to become educated or otherwise qualified to work at a particular job), (and/or lump sum alimony (a specific sum designated for support purposes). Typically, permanent alimony, durational, bridge-the-gap and rehabilitative alimony are paid on a monthly basis and may have substantial tax consequences.

The factors considered by a court when determining issues of alimony include: the age of the parties, the duration of the marriage, the health, education and skills of each party and other factors. Generally, marital misconduct, such as adultery is only considered when it has an economic consequence.

An Income Deduction Order may be entered that will require the employer of the person paying alimony to deduct the support from the paying spouse’s paycheck and send it directly to the other spouse or to a central depository, which will keep track of the payments and forward the funds to the receiving spouse. Failure to pay spousal support when it has been ordered is enforceable by contempt and willful failure to pay may result in a person being jailed. A party may be ordered to maintain life insurance or provide other security to ensure the continued payment of alimony.

As an additional component of support, a Judge may order one party to pay the attorney’s fees and costs incurred by his or her spouse. The primary factor to be considered in an award of fees is the need of one spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay. More and more, however, the courts are considering the reasonableness of the positions of each party in determining the amount of fees and costs awarded.

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