If you are considering divorce, it’s natural to be nervous about your future financial situation. You likely have questions about the financial arrangements that will unfold between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Alimony, also called spousal maintenance, is just one of the many financial issues that can arise during divorce in the Midwest. Alimony may not become an issue in every divorce, but it’s essential to understand what alimony entails in case you are obligated to pay it or entitled to receive it.
What Is Alimony?
In the simplest terms, alimony or spousal support is payment from one divorcing spouse to another, providing the recipient with extra financial support so they can become self-sufficient after their marriage ends. Some spouses give up careers to become homemakers, and others do not pursue further education or new job opportunities following marriage. Alimony payments typically continue for a predetermined amount of time the court deems appropriate, or until the recipient completes a “terminating action.”
You might wonder whether you will have to pay alimony to your ex. Every divorce is different, and an experienced Midwest divorce attorney is the best possible resource for answers to specific questions about your situation. However, you can gauge your potential risk of alimony liability or your potential eligibility to receive it by considering the factors the court uses to determine alimony arrangements.
Essential Factors in Alimony Determinations
Every state has different laws pertaining to alimony eligibility, acceptable spousal support terms, and terminating actions that result in alimony payments ending. To determine whether you should expect to pay or receive alimony from your divorce proceedings, consider the two most important factors in the eyes of most family courts:
- The income levels of the two spouses. If both spouses in a divorce earn equivalent levels of income, there may be no need for alimony negotiations. If one spouse earned significantly more income than the other, the court will likely seek an alimony arrangement that ensures the lower-earning spouse has enough financial support to eventually become self-sufficient.
- The length of the marriage. Alimony is very unlikely to come up in divorce proceedings for short marriages. The longer a marriage lasted, the greater the chance for alimony to arise as a topic during divorce proceedings. This is especially true if one of the spouses gave up a career after marriage or reconsidered finishing a degree due to their marriage. Alimony will almost certainly arise if the lower-earning spouse is unable to work in the future.
You should be able to guess what your alimony rights and responsibilities might be based on these two factors. The court generally aims for the recipient to have enough spousal support to complete higher education, obtain employment, and make suitable living arrangements that compare to their quality of life while married.
How to Avoid Paying Alimony
If you consider these criteria and believe you might be facing alimony payment responsibilities to your spouse, you could have a few potential defenses that can help during divorce negotiations. First, if you and your spouse signed a prenuptial agreement, the contract could include terms and conditions related to alimony on spousal support, including predetermined terminating actions in some cases.
If you do not have a prenuptial contract, you can look to your state’s laws to determine whether your spouse has disqualified themselves in some way. For example, in some states, a divorcing spouse may not claim alimony if they were unfaithful during the marriage. The other spouse would need to provide clear and convincing evidence of the infidelity. Review your state’s laws with the help of a Midwest divorce attorney to determine whether your spouse has any claim to alimony.
You may also need to request an official vocational evaluation of your spouse to avoid paying alimony. An example of this would be if your spouse wants to work part-time and collect alimony but has the experience and education for full-time employment. In this situation, vocational evaluation will ensure you are not paying alimony needlessly when your spouse is perfectly capable of finding suitable work.
Remember that you are unlikely to face an alimony obligation if you were only married for a short time. Your divorce proceedings will typically aim to restore the spouses to the financial states they had prior to their marriage. Shorter marriages typically don’t involve complex financial problems, and alimony will be very short-term if it is at all applicable.
Terminating Alimony Payments
Alimony arrangements typically function temporarily. Depending on your state’s laws, alimony may last for a predetermined time frame or until the paying spouse meets a suitable threshold of total support paid. In some cases, alimony may last until the recipient meets specific financial requirements. Every alimony arrangement will include terms of ending the arrangement, including early termination if the arrangement functions on a timeline.
Early termination of alimony can occur for several reasons. State law and specific contract wording typically have the strongest bearing when it comes to determining terminating actions. For example, in some states, a divorced spouse may not receive further alimony payments once they remarry or begin cohabitating with someone else. If you are required to pay alimony, pay very close attention to how your alimony agreement is worded and the terminating actions the contract includes. If you believe your ex has satisfied the definition of a terminating action, a Midwest divorce attorney can help you determine the fastest route to ending your alimony obligations.
Remember that family law is unique in that either spouse can revisit the terms of a negotiated divorce agreement and adjust the terms of the agreement, as necessary. Post-judgment modification may allow you to adjust or terminate alimony or spousal support arrangement, even if the divorce decree determined it was permanent. Your attorney can help you provide evidence of your ex-spouse’s terminating action or other life events that affect your ability to pay, such as the loss of your job or other reduction of income.
Divorce can be an incredibly stressful experience, and additional financial pressure can be challenging. You may want to do everything you can do to avoid paying alimony to your ex. However, be cautious. Some married people have gone so far to avoid alimony responsibilities that they have quit their jobs and filed for bankruptcy, neither of which is a good idea to try and escape alimony payments. If you want to develop a sound strategy for reducing or eliminating your alimony requirements during your divorce, reach out to an experienced Midwest divorce attorney for professional insight into your specific situation.