Family Law

Understanding Alimony and Maintenance Laws in a Divorce

Spousal support in divorce is money awarded to one spouse by the court in a divorce or separation. It is also known as alimony or maintenance and is designed to help the payee partner achieve independence after the marriage ends. The judge decides if and how much to award, and it usually lasts for the length of the marriage.

A court can order one of the former spouses to pay alimony based on a few different factors. First, the court must determine each party’s earning capacity. It can use a number of formulas and worksheets to figure out the amount each ex-spouse will receive.

Each state has its own rules for determining spousal support. New York, for example, uses a chart that starts with a calculation of both parties’ combined incomes. Once the total is determined, it is then subtracted from each party’s individual income to come up with the spousal support amount.

In some states, a person can claim a tax deduction for spousal support payments. However, that rule will soon change as a result of the tax cut passed by Congress in 2018.

The length of the marriage is another factor when it comes to spousal support awards. If the marriage is short-term, such as less than five years, a judge will generally not award permanent spousal support to either party.

A judge may also order spousal support in cases where one spouse has a significant disadvantage when it comes to earning a living due to age, health conditions, or other circumstances that would prevent the recipient from working. For example, if one spouse has a medical background but took several years off to raise children, that ex-spouse may be entitled to a certain amount of alimony to help the recipient return to work.

Payments can be made directly or to third parties, such as health insurance companies, mortgage holders, or life insurance companies. These payments are sometimes called “third-party alimony” or “external spousal support.”

If the recipient spouse fails to comply with the terms of an alimony order, it is easy to go back to court to ask a judge to enforce the alimony orders. The judge can then impose wage garnishment, levies, or other legal actions against the payee to collect any unpaid alimony payments that are owed.

Many of these types of actions can be a challenge to obtain, but if you’re diligent about gathering evidence and presenting it in court, your chances are good that the judge will see your case favorably.

In some situations, the spousal support payment may be reduced, suspended, or terminated as long as the paying party has changed his or her situation. A reduction or suspension of spousal support is commonly requested when one spouse has remarried or has died.

When it’s time to make a decision about spousal support, you’ll need an experienced Miami divorce lawyer to assist you with the process. Your lawyer can help you understand the laws in your state and how a judge can decide whether or not spousal support should be awarded.