Unveiling the Secrets of Alimony and Spousal Support
Even when it’s the right decision for a couple, divorce is never an exciting process. Those who entered marriage without a prenuptial agreement often find out the hard way that divorce comes with many surprises. Of these, few are as unexpected as spousal maintenance payments. In fact, there are many secrets about alimony that are unknown even to those with prior divorces.
That’s because no two divorces are the same, and spousal support requirements will have significant situational variations. To better prepare yourself for what’s to come, here are a few lesser-known issues related to spousal support that you should know.
1. Spousal Support Isn’t Just for Divorce
When people think of alimony, they often envision a wealthy former spouse providing financial support following a divorce. While this is certainly an outcome we see on occasion, it’s far from the only common situation. First, alimony can be ordered regardless of whether either spouse has significant resources. More importantly, it’s not just ordered when a divorce is finalized.
In fact, a judge may issue a spousal support order during divorce proceedings. This is a temporary measure to minimize financial difficulties for the lower-earning spouse throughout the process. This order lasts until the divorce is finalized, but it is often extended afterward. Courts will also frequently require alimony during a legal separation.
Put simply, don’t be surprised if spousal maintenance comes up before your marriage ends.
2. Alimony Doesn’t Come Without Conditions
Some people think that alimony payments are nothing more than free money given to a person to enjoy their post-marital life. However, this is far from the truth. In reality, these payments are merely meant to help maintain a standard of living and avoid financial difficulties. Additionally, spousal support orders typically come with conditions.
These conditions can vary based on the circumstances of a former couple’s situation. A judge may require the receiving spouse to seek vocational training to re-enter the workforce. Courts may also specify a certain duration or amount of alimony from the start. A common condition also ends spousal support if the receiving party begins to cohabitate with another party.
3. True Permanent Alimony Is Rare
When going through a divorce, you’ll likely hear the terms “temporary alimony” and “permanent alimony.” While these may seem self-explanatory, most people don’t realize what they’re actually describing. Temporary spousal support describes the alimony payments ordered during divorce proceedings. Permanent support comes after the proceedings have concluded. However, it’s important to note that permanent alimony is rarely actually permanent.
In most cases, spousal support will end at a certain date, once a specific amount is paid, when the recipient moves in with a new partner, or if court-ordered conditions are not met. True permanent spousal support usually only occurs if the receiving spouse is handicapped or otherwise unable to care for themselves. Such lengthy spousal support is also more likely if a couple was married for a extensive period of time.
4. Spousal Support Isn’t Mandatory
It’s easy to assume that common misconceptions really are how the legal system works. For instance, many people believe that spousal support is something that happens in every divorce. In reality, this isn’t the case. It’s important to remember that alimony payments are meant to minimize financial discrepancies between former partners.
In a situation where both parties are gainfully employed, a divorce may cause no economic hardship for either individual. In these cases, the courts may feel that spousal maintenance is unnecessary. However, keep in mind that this doesn’t affect other forms of support. If you have a child with your former partner, the non-custodial parent will likely have to pay child support.
5. Adultery Doesn’t Always Affect Alimony Determination
When it comes to misconceptions in divorce, few areas are as rife with common myths as infidelity. We’ve all seen movies where one party strives to prove adultery took place in their marriage. In the movie, this would negate any alimony responsibility on the part of the higher-earning spouse. In reality, this is becoming more rare.
That’s because more states are offering only no-fault divorces. And even in states that do allow for a fault-based divorce filing, judges are often restricted from considering marital misconduct when making spousal support decisions. However, infidelity in these states can still sometimes affect property division — particularly if one spouse wasted community property on their affair.
6. Jurisdiction Is Everything
In real estate, they say that location is everything. As it turns out, this is also true in divorce. Simply put, there are very few federal requirements regarding marriage. When you get a divorce, how things play out will depend heavily on what jurisdiction you’re in. And if former partners have lived separately in different states, there could be questions regarding where to file.
When it comes to spousal support, this decision could have a huge impact. For instance, adultery cannot be considered by Arizona family courts when determining alimony payments. However, stepping outside of Arizona across to the Utah side of the border changes everything. That’s because infidelity can be considered by courts in the neighboring state.
As such, you should probably speak with an attorney if there are potential jurisdictional issues in your divorce.
7. Life Insurance Might Be Required
When a spouse who’s receiving spousal support dies, the obligation of the paying spouse ends. Conversely, the opposite may not be true. Alimony is meant to minimize economic disparities, but the death of a former spouse doesn’t mean the financial hardships of the receiving spouse suddenly end. In fact, it’s likely that their situation will only worsen.
That is why courts will often require the paying spouse to secure their financial obligation by purchasing life insurance. This will make sure their economic responsibility is met even if something unfortunate happens. However, it’s important that you remember to update this policy if the courts decide you’re no longer required to pay alimony.
Clearly, there are many unknown alimony issues that people overlook. At The Turner Law Firm, we can ensure you understand exactly what you’re up against and fight to secure a favorable outcome. Contact us today at 480-618-1221 for your free consultation.