The Basics of Alimony
Divorce brings about many changes to a person’s life. Not only are there many emotional changes to adjust to, but divorce can also bring financial changes that need to be dealt with, too. It can be especially difficult if one spouse was the primary breadwinner and the other spouse was in charge of maintaining the house. Suddenly, the spouse who did not work outside of the home has absolutely no income coming in.
Situations like this are one reason why it is an excellent idea for couples to have a prenuptial agreement in place before they marry. In fact, even if you are already married, it’s not too late. Many couples still choose to have a postnuptial agreement drawn up. Alimony is one of the many issues that can be addressed in a prenuptial agreement and can make the transition from married life to single life a little easier financially.
If you do not have a prenuptial agreement in place, then your divorce attorney can include an alimony request as part of your divorce settlement.
Who qualifies for alimony?
Decades ago, when a couple got divorced, the husband was almost always ordered to pay the wife alimony. That has all changed, and alimony is not automatically part of the divorce settlement like it once was. Husbands are not always the spouse who pays the alimony. In today’s divorces, the husband can also be the spouse who is receiving the alimony.
Instead of being mandatory, it is now up to the discretion of the court on whether or not alimony will be awarded, how much the payments will be, and how long the alimony will be paid. There are several factors the court takes into consideration when it has been asked to award one of the spouse’s alimony:
- What are the spouse’s ages, physical condition, and emotional condition?
- What was the couple’s standard of living when they were married?
- How long was the couple married?
- What are the assets each spouse is ending up with in the divorce settlement?
- What is the income of each spouse?
- Does the paying spouse have the ability to make the alimony payments?
- Has there been any negative impact on the requesting spouse due to the time they spend maintaining the home and raising the couple’s children?
- What was the contribution the requesting spouse made to the paying spouse’s education or career?
- What is the present and future earning capacity of each spouse?
- How long will it take before the requesting spouse becomes financially self-sufficient?
Do I have to pay income tax on alimony?
The answer to this question is a little tricky because of changes in the tax law. Previously, the paying spouse could deduct the amount of alimony he or she paid from their taxable income. The spouse who received the alimony was required to claim the alimony as taxable income. However, with the federal tax changes passed in 2017, there are different rules for alimony for couples whose divorce becomes final after December 31, 2018. For those couples, alimony will be treated like child support – the paying spouse cannot deduct the payments from their taxes, and the receiving spouse no longer has to claim the alimony as taxable income.
If you or someone you know is going through a divorce and wondering about alimony, contact an experienced family attorney, to answer any questions you may have.