Alimony (also referred to as spousal support) consists of payments made by one spouse to the other spouse, which can be required both before and after a divorce is final. Since significant amounts of money are at stake, alimony is often one of the most contentious parts of a divorce.
The spouse receiving the alimony payments must be deemed “in need” of such payments. Determining an alimony award the court considers many different factors depending on the type of award.
The amount may also be diminished should the receiving spouse choose to co-habitate with another person. Cohabitation means the individual receiving the alimony maintains a common household with another, continuously, for more than three months. A common household is understood as two people who are in a marriage-like relationship who share a primary residence together either with or without others. Courts have looked at certain factors to make this determination:
*Number of months of marriage = date of legal marriage until the divorce complaint is served or petition for separate support is filed
The amount of payment can be modified depending on substantial changes in circumstances to either spouse. Termination occurs upon remarriage of the receiving spouse, death of either spouse, or a specified event. Courts usually grant this when it can be shown that the receiving spouse has the education, skills, or means to reenter the job market in a short period of time.
The most common situation is one where a spouse paid for education or job training for the other spouse during the marriage. It is not necessary that the receiving spouse actually be in need of the repayment for the reimbursement to be awarded. Termination only occurs upon death of either spouse. The alimony conditions are not modifiable.
Generally, alimony amounts are not to exceed 30-35% of the difference between the spouses’ individual gross income. Courts are allowed to award more than 35% if justice requires or if they are awarding reimbursement alimony.
One of the key factors in determining the amount to be awarded is lost economic opportunities of either spouse. If one spouse has foregone economic opportunities as a result of the marriage, alimony is a tool to help compensate for such losses.
Payments will be deducted by the paying spouse and will be included in the gross income of the receiving spouse.
Alimony calculations and the factors that can lead to adjustment by the court are complex. If you are in the position of potentially having to pay, or to receive, alimony, it will be in your best interest to seek the guidance and representation of an experienced divorce attorney. Please call me at (978) 851-5145 to schedule a free consultation.