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Spousal Support, Spousal Maintenance, and Alimony



Your Rights and Duties Regarding Alimony

Alimony, also called spousal support or spousal maintenance, is often a hotly contested issue in a divorce proceeding. If you and your spouse can come to an agreement on the issue of spousal support, your agreement can be incorporated into a final divorce decree when you file an uncontested divorce petition. If you have filed for legal separation prior to filing for divorce, the separation agreement will often be incorporated into the final decree.

Despite whether or not you and your spouse can voluntarily agree on the matter, any agreement between spouses regarding payments must be written into a final divorce decree to become legally binding and enforceable in court if there is a default in payment. However, any verbal or written agreements between the parties need to be made part of a court order to avoid problems of enforcement down the road. Without a written order for a spousal support payment, or change in alimony, any disputes involving the time, duration, or amount of spousal maintenance can lead to litigation in court and swearing contests involving one person's word against the others.

US Legal Forms has affordable, professionally drafted forms dealing with all aspects of spousal support and alimony payments. We also have free state law summaries online and state-specific, uncontested divorce packages with step-by-step instructions for filing a divorce when the issue of alimony is uncontested. Whether you are seeking alimony as part of a divorce or want to change a previous order for spousal support, US Legal Forms has the forms professionals trust.

The Order for Spousal Support

Divorce laws vary by state, and in some states there may be a set of financial guidelines that can be used as an alimony calculator. Whether or not to grant spousal support is a decision made based on the individual circumstances in each case. If there has been domestic violence or other marital misconduct, it may be considered when the court makes a decision to order spousal support.

The duration of payments will vary by case. Alimony pendente lite or temporary alimony can be requested in the petition for dissolution when the parties are separated prior to divorce, which is spousal support during the dissolution proceedings. It may continue as part of the final divorce decree as rehabilitative alimony or permanent alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is ordered to give one spouse financial assistance for a sufficient time in order to become self-sufficient. Permanent alimony is more likely to be ordered when the marriage is long-term and the person is older or less able to earn a living. Some of the factors commonly used to determine an award of spousal maintenance include the following:

  • Length of marriage - a permanent alimony award is more likely to be granted in a divorce lasting at least 10 years.
  • Education - a spouse with a degree or advanced education is likely to have more earning potential than one without the same.
  • Employment history and skills - a spouse may have limited his or her earning potential by contributing to child-rearing, homemaking instead.
  • Health - poor health and medical costs are limiting factors considered by the court.
  • Expected inheritances - expected future income may be taken into consideration.
  • Relative income of the parties - disparity in earning may be used to determine the amount of a spousal maintenance order.
  • Marital misconduct - in some states, adultery, domestic violence, and other fault contributing to the breakdown of the marriage may be taken into consideration.
  • Age and gender - the court will recognize that men tend to earn more and have higher earning potential than women, and earnings and employment opportunities tend to decrease with age.

Alimony and Tax Law

Under federal law, the recipient of alimony will be taxed on the amount received as ordinary income. The payer spouse making the payment will be allowed a deduction on his or her tax return. This cannot be altered by the divorce decree or private agreement. Therefore, it is a factor to be considered when negotiating the payment amount.


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