Before you engage in divorce proceedings, find out what you will be responsible for in alimony. Learn about alimony payments and why you have to make them.
Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans receive alimony payments. Could alimony be part of your life someday?
If you decide to get a divorce, the answer might be yes – and it’s valuable to understand these payments.
What is alimony? How does it work? Why is it required and how much does it cost? In this guide, we’ll give you the answers you need.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony is a payment or payments made after a divorce to help a dependent spouse. A more common name for it today is “spousal support.”
If your spouse relied on income from your job or other sources during your marriage, you might be required to pay alimony. Even if you didn’t fully support your spouse financially, you might still need to pay alimony if you have the larger income.
Some alimony payments get made in a lump sum, but regular, recurring payments are more common. A judge decides how much you must pay and for how long. Some recurring alimony payments last just months, while others go on for years.
If you make alimony payments, you can deduct them from your taxes. If you receive alimony, you must claim those payments as taxable income.
Alimony isn’t the same as child support. The court may require you to make both payments, but they’re not linked.
History of Alimony
The concept of alimony has been around for centuries. Even in ancient Mesopotamia, the legal codes mandated if a man had children with a woman, he was required to provide for her even if they separated.
Today, alimony can be required even if no children are involved.
The modern concept of alimony comes from the ecclesiastical courts of England. Although these powerful church courts didn’t permit divorce, legal separation was allowed. During separation, they required the husband to provide for the wife.
Divorce became generally available in the U.S. in the late 1800s. For decades, couples could only divorce if they could prove the grounds for their divorce were based on the misbehavior of one party.
Alimony was often paid by the spouse considered to be at fault, which typically was the husband.
Today, things function a lot differently, although the concept of no-fault divorce is relatively new. If alimony becomes part of your divorce, here’s what to expect.
If you pay
Your spouse might request alimony or choose not to. The judge determines whether you should be required to pay.
If you’ve been married for a long time and make a lot more money than your spouse, you should expect to pay alimony.
Sometimes you can be required to make payments even if you don’t make significantly more money. But it’s much rarer for alimony to be required if you make the same amount or the marriage was very brief.
Once alimony is ordered, you either pay the lump sum or make monthly payments until the date the judge decided your payments should end.
If you get paid
If you’ll need financial assistance to support yourself after your marriage ends, you can request alimony.
You may need to prove any or all of the following:
- Your spouse made a lot more money than you
- You can’t find enough work to support yourself
- Lack of alimony will severely affect your quality of life
If your spouse doesn’t want to pay alimony but you seek it, the court will make the decision.
Does Alimony End?
Alimony isn’t meant to last forever – it’s offers a temporary means for the dependent spouse to support themselves while they transition into work.
When alimony payments might end include:
- The person who receives alimony marries again
- Dependent children are old enough to not need full-time parenting
- After a retirement or another life-impacting event
- If the payee doesn’t try hard enough to support his or herself
These events can also cause the court to revise the number of payments. But aside from these special cases, payments continue until the date originally chosen for them to end.
Who Pays Alimony?
Today, either men or women can be expected to pay alimony. But it’s still far more common for men to make alimony payments because of the continuing wage gap and the old-fashioned notion men provide the most income during marriage.
It’s slowly becoming more common for women to make alimony payments, though. This is partially because of shifts in traditional gender roles. Women now have more access to well-paying jobs than they used to.
However, men still make the vast majority of alimony payments in the U.S.
Average Cost of Alimony
Do you wonder how much you could be required to pay after your divorce?
The cost of alimony depends on several factors. The court looks at your incomes and how much in expenses each you will face monthly.
The judge also considers what kind of payment is necessary for the dependent spouse to maintain their lifestyle. The more you make, the more alimony you typically can expect to pay.
But other factors like lifestyle, debt load and whether the dependent spouse even has an income can also affect the outcome. Check out our recent article on the average alimony cost in Nebraska for more information.
Need Help Navigating Alimony?
A great lawyer is key to you getting the results you want when it comes to alimony. Whether you hope to receive or expect to pay it, we can help.
Ready to book your free consultation? Call (402) 415-2525 or quickly book online today!