Alimony is one issue of several that arises in a marriage dissolution action. Unlike child support, there is no mathematical calculation in determining alimony.
Before the court can order any award of alimony, equitable distribution must take place. Once the assets have been equitably divided, the court has several choices concerning alimony. The court can order permanent periodic alimony, lump-sum alimony, bridge-the-gap alimony, rehabilitative alimony, no alimony at all, or a combination of different alimony types.
Alimony is typically used to provide support to the financially dependent spouse. Alimony is based first on need and ability to pay. Therefore, an award of alimony is not appropriate when there is no need for support by the requesting spouse or when there is no ability to pay by the other spouse. The court must consider various factors when it determines need, such as the parties’ earning ability, age, health, education, duration of marriage, standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, and the value of the parties’ properties.
For purposes of determining alimony, there is a rebuttable presumption that a short-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of less than 7 years, a moderate-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of greater than 7 years but less than 17 years, and long-term marriage is a marriage having a duration of 17 years or greater. The length of a marriage is the period of time from the date of marriage until the date of filing of an action for dissolution of marriage.
Other factors the court may consider are what the paying spouse is capable of earning and whether the requesting spouse is able to contribute to his or her own support; whether the requesting spouse’s needs will be met through equitable distribution, and whether as a result of the marriage there was any harm done by the marriage itself to the requesting party’s ability to earn enough to support himself or herself.
To the extent necessary to protect an award of alimony, the court may require any party who is ordered to pay alimony to purchase or maintain a life insurance policy or a bond, or to otherwise secure such alimony award with any other assets which may be suitable for that purpose.
There was a significant change to alimony tax laws about which you should be aware. More specifically, as to alimony awarded on or after January 1, 2019, the alimony payments are no longer taxable to the recipient or deductible by the payor under the new tax law.
For alimony payments made pursuant to a final judgment entered before January 1, 2019, the payments may still be taxable to the recipient and deductible by the payor.