What are the alimony rules? There is no clear cut answer to this question because the awarding of alimony can be quite complicated and is based on several factors.
The Alimony Rules
It is important to note that alimony can be awarded in a wide variety of situations. Having children, experiencing adultery within the marriage, or having a bitterly contested divorce are not situations that guarantee alimony will be ordered by the court. Most alimony rules simply state that one spouse must prove that there is a financial need for monetary assistance because without the extra money, the spouse will have a difficult time making ends meet.
On the other hand, in some situations, financial need will not merit an actual court order of alimony if the other spouse does not have the ability to pay or if the requesting spouse has too high a standard of living, meaning his or her idea of "making ends meet" is not reasonable.
The Few Absolute Rules
Not every state has alimony rules that apply to every divorce situation. There are a few rules that do apply to alimony regardless of the state in which the divorce occurs:
- There are no gender restrictions with alimony. In other words, wives are not guaranteed to obtain alimony and husbands are not exempt from getting alimony.
- The person paying alimony receives a tax deduction on the amount of alimony paid. This is an IRS rule and applies as long as the couple does not still file jointly as a married couple.
- Alimony is only awarded in situations when the couple is actually separated or divorced and not living under the same roof.
- Alimony cannot be awarded when a legal prenuptial agreement exists which prohibits the awarding of alimony, unless both members of the marriage agree to alimony being awarded.
Other factors are taken into consideration, but there are no alimony rules which will absolutely guarantee a situation where a person will be awarded alimony. For this reason, when considering divorce, do not assume that you will receive alimony even if your spouse makes an impressive income.
The Importance of Counsel
Alimony rules can be quite complicated. It is a good idea to seek out expert advice from a divorce attorney when attempting to request alimony. An attorney with experience in dealing with alimony will be able to sift through the rules pertaining to your particular situation while also knowing which documents to request from you to potentially speed up the process. For example, since some courts base the need for alimony on one partner's income level versus the other partner's income (or potential for earning income), an attorney will probably request income documents and deposit account statements to present to the court.
Even though the services of a divorce attorney cost money, the expense may be worth it in order to receive the benefit of the attorney's expertise and knowledge with regards to alimony rules in your state.
In instances when alimony is granted, courts oftentimes follow a series of rules that help to decide if alimony should be awarded.
- Does one partner have an inability to earn money, or does the partner need some time to build up some career skills?
- How long has the couple been married?
- Did one partner sacrifice career opportunities in order to raise children or support the other partner through school?
- Was one member of the marriage completely dependent upon the other member for full financial support?
Generally, the more dependent a person was on his or her spouse, especially if that dependence was the result of a mutual agreement between the two spouses, the higher the likelihood of getting alimony. There is no clear-cut rule that stipulates this as law, however.