Sometimes when a marriage ends, one spouse will continue providing money to the other spouse, even after the divorce. This has traditionally been called alimony, but some states refer to it as spousal support. There are a number of different kinds of spousal support, and spousal support is completely different from child support. However, the custody of children may be taken into account in establishing spousal support amounts.
When one spouse pays another spouse alimony for a period of time in order to give them an opportunity to be able to become employable, this is called rehabilitative alimony. For example, one spouse may pay alimony while another spouse goes back to school or takes an employment training program. Rehabilitative alimony may also be ordered for just long enough to give one of the spouses time to find appropriate employment. Rehabilitative alimony is most common in situations where one of the spouses has stayed home to take care of children and needs some time in order to be able to support themselves. There is no specific time frame for rehabilitative alimony, and the length of time it can be implemented for will depend on the situation. A judge may periodically review the situation to see whether rehabilitative alimony should continue or whether the spouse being paid has been able to get on their feet financially.
Generally, the trend has been for courts to move away from permanent alimony, and toward shorter term alimony that has a specific purpose. However, there are some circumstances in which permanent alimony may be appropriate. One example is when one of the spouses has disabilities and will never be able to work. Another situation where permanent alimony may be ordered is after a long marriage ends and one spouse stayed home with the children and now has been out of the workforce for so long that it is unlikely they could find work. The judge will look at the specific situation of the couple in making this determination. In most cases, permanent alimony will be paid until one party dies or the recipient of the alimony gets remarried.
Alimony Forms: 50-State Resources
Justia provides a comprehensive 50-state survey on alimony considerations, as well as forms and resources for each state.
Lump Sum Alimony
Lump sum alimony is often more similar to asset division than alimony. If one of the spouses does not want some of the marital property, the other spouse may be ordered to pay a lump sum to them instead. It will just be a one-time payment in most scenarios.
Alimony and Taxes
Before 2018, a payor spouse was able to deduct the alimony payments from their income for tax purposes, and the payee spouse was obligated to declare the payments as income. However, for payments required under divorce or separation instruments executed after December 31, 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act new law eliminates the deduction, and recipients of payments under such instruments will no longer have to include them in taxable income.
Terminating Alimony Payments
How and when alimony can be terminated will depend on the kind of alimony at issue. Most kinds of alimony will end if the spouse receiving the payments gets remarried. However, this may not be the case with rehabilitative alimony because this type of alimony is often ordered for a specific duration of time. Whether cohabitation with a new partner will terminate alimony for the recipient spouse will depend on the state. Alimony can also be terminated in some states if the spouse who was awarded alimony is able to become financially self-sufficient. A skilled divorce attorney who is knowledgeable in the laws of your state can help you ensure that you are not making any alimony payments that you do not need to make.