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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Alimony

Alimony refers to court-ordered sums that are regularly paid by a person to a former spouse after a divorce or separation agreement. This is also known in certain states as “spousal maintenance” and it is generally awarded to provide financial support to the husband or wife who makes a lower income.

Refusing to pay alimony or not paying on time can lead to civil or even criminal charges. Alimony payments sometimes continue until the payer dies, the spouse receiving payments remarries, or due to a court order.

Historically, women were more likely to give up their careers to raise children, which means that they had fewer financial resources following divorce. As a result, many states have laws establishing that divorced spouses have the right to live the same quality of life as during the marriage, through financial support payments.

Alimony recipients do not owe any federal tax on their support, and they cannot be used as a deductible expense by payers. Learn more about the different types of alimony and how it differs from child support below.

What are the Different Types of Alimony?

There are various different types of alimony that can be awarded. These usually differ depending on the state, the financial status of the lower-earning spouse, and the duration of the marriage. In addition, the way the alimony is negotiated during the divorce can impact its conditions once awarded.

The most common types of alimony in the United States are as follows:

  • Permanent alimony: Paid until the death of either spouse on a monthly basis or until the remarriage of the spouse to which alimony was awarded. This can depend partly on the length of the marriage.
  • Reimbursement alimony: Support paid periodically or as a one-time sum to reimburse the ex-spouse for costs they incurred to help the paying spouse. This usually includes job training or tuition-related costs.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: Support awarded to a lower-earning spouse who is expected to improve their financial status after a certain time period. Often paid to former spouses while they complete an educational program or work training.
  • Transitional alimony: Paid regularly or one time to help a spouse transition into a new lifestyle or settle in a new location due to the divorce.
  • Lump-sum alimony: Support paid instead of a property settlement when a former spouse doesn’t want property, items of value, or other marital assets.
  • Temporary alimony: Paid while a divorce is being finalized, and can include divorce expenses and daily living costs. This type of support payment usually ends when the separation is complete.

Difference Between Alimony and Child Support

It’s common for people to confuse alimony with child support, however, they are different legal terms that refer to separate concepts within family law.

While alimony payments are made for the financial assistance of a spouse, child support is intended to support one or more of the children from a dissolved marriage. Property settlements and voluntary payments are also not included within the scope of alimony.

Both child support and alimony support payments cannot be discharged due to bankruptcy. That being said, certain payers are able to get other debt discharged in order to be able to afford their alimony payments.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

The length of spousal support can vary due to various aspects. However, in a typical marriage, it usually lasts around half of the duration of the marriage. For example, in a six-year marriage, alimony payments may last around three years.

Nevertheless, this can differ significantly depending on the length of the marriage, alongside with other important factors. These are listed below:

  • The type of alimony that was awarded
  • Duration of support received in the past
  • Employability of the alimony recipient
  • Length of marriage

How Is Alimony Calculated?

Alimony is typically calculated by taking into account the income of both partners, the number of defendants, and the length of the marriage in years. Common methods for calculating spousal support usually take up to 40% of the payor’s net income (after child support), and up to 50% of the recipient’s net income is then subtracted from the total if he or she is working.

As an example, the AAML alimony formula, which was created in an effort to standardize alimony calculation across different states, calculates 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the payee’s gross income.

Some of the most commonly used alimony formulas include:

  • American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) Formula
  • Judge Ginsburg Formula
  • Texas Formula
  • Santa Clara County Formula (California)
  • Rough-Cut 1/3-1/3-1/3 Rule of Thumb Formula
  • Maricopa County Formula (Arizona)
  • NY Formula
  • Johnson County Bar Association Formula (Kansas)

However, the exact formula used can vary from state to state and the particular judge’s final judgment on the case. In fact, many states do not have a specific formula. Instead, the court determines spousal support by reviewing the evidence and a variety of factors, such as:

  • Overall income and estate of each spouse
  • Age of each spouse
  • Education of each spouse
  • Length of the marriage
  • Individual contributions to the marriage by each spouse
  • Whether either spouse had an affair

Alimony refers to court-ordered sums that are regularly paid by a person to a former spouse after a divorce or separation agreement. This is also known in certain states as “spousal maintenance” and it is generally awarded to provide financial support to the husband or wife who makes a lower income.

Refusing to pay alimony or not paying on time can lead to civil or even criminal charges. Alimony payments sometimes continue until the payer dies, the spouse receiving payments remarries, or due to a court order.

Historically, women were more likely to give up their careers to raise children, which means that they had fewer financial resources following divorce. As a result, many states have laws establishing that divorced spouses have the right to live the same quality of life as during the marriage, through financial support payments.

Alimony recipients do not owe any federal tax on their support, and they cannot be used as a deductible expense by payers. Learn more about the different types of alimony and how it differs from child support below.

What are the Different Types of Alimony?

There are various different types of alimony that can be awarded. These usually differ depending on the state, the financial status of the lower-earning spouse, and the duration of the marriage. In addition, the way the alimony is negotiated during the divorce can impact its conditions once awarded.

The most common types of alimony in the United States are as follows:

  • Permanent alimony: Paid until the death of either spouse on a monthly basis or until the remarriage of the spouse to which alimony was awarded. This can depend partly on the length of the marriage.
  • Reimbursement alimony: Support paid periodically or as a one-time sum to reimburse the ex-spouse for costs they incurred to help the paying spouse. This usually includes job training or tuition-related costs.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: Support awarded to a lower-earning spouse who is expected to improve their financial status after a certain time period. Often paid to former spouses while they complete an educational program or work training.
  • Transitional alimony: Paid regularly or one time to help a spouse transition into a new lifestyle or settle in a new location due to the divorce.
  • Lump-sum alimony: Support paid instead of a property settlement when a former spouse doesn’t want property, items of value, or other marital assets.
  • Temporary alimony: Paid while a divorce is being finalized, and can include divorce expenses and daily living costs. This type of support payment usually ends when the separation is complete.

Difference Between Alimony and Child Support

It’s common for people to confuse alimony with child support, however, they are different legal terms that refer to separate concepts within family law.

While alimony payments are made for the financial assistance of a spouse, child support is intended to support one or more of the children from a dissolved marriage. Property settlements and voluntary payments are also not included within the scope of alimony.

Both child support and alimony support payments cannot be discharged due to bankruptcy. That being said, certain payers are able to get other debt discharged in order to be able to afford their alimony payments.

How Long Does Alimony Last?

The length of spousal support can vary due to various aspects. However, in a typical marriage, it usually lasts around half of the duration of the marriage. For example, in a six-year marriage, alimony payments may last around three years.

Nevertheless, this can differ significantly depending on the length of the marriage, alongside with other important factors. These are listed below:

  • The type of alimony that was awarded
  • Duration of support received in the past
  • Employability of the alimony recipient
  • Length of marriage

How Is Alimony Calculated?

Alimony is typically calculated by taking into account the income of both partners, the number of defendants, and the length of the marriage in years. Common methods for calculating spousal support usually take up to 40% of the payor’s net income (after child support), and up to 50% of the recipient’s net income is then subtracted from the total if he or she is working.

As an example, the AAML alimony formula, which was created in an effort to standardize alimony calculation across different states, calculates 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the payee’s gross income.

Some of the most commonly used alimony formulas include:

  • American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) Formula
  • Judge Ginsburg Formula
  • Texas Formula
  • Santa Clara County Formula (California)
  • Rough-Cut 1/3-1/3-1/3 Rule of Thumb Formula
  • Maricopa County Formula (Arizona)
  • NY Formula
  • Johnson County Bar Association Formula (Kansas)

However, the exact formula used can vary from state to state and the particular judge’s final judgment on the case. In fact, many states do not have a specific formula. Instead, the court determines spousal support by reviewing the evidence and a variety of factors, such as:

  • Overall income and estate of each spouse
  • Age of each spouse
  • Education of each spouse
  • Length of the marriage
  • Individual contributions to the marriage by each spouse
  • Whether either spouse had an affair