Spousal alimony or support is the payment from one spouse to another, often to make up for the reduced financial resources of the receiving spouse, or to compensate for that spouse's contribution to the home or the other spouse's career advancement.
Alimony is not awarded as often as it was for previous generations because there are more marriages where both spouses work and are capable of supporting themselves. While alimony used to only be awarded to the wife, it may now be awarded to either spouse.
There are roughly four different types of alimony: permanent, temporary, lump sum, or rehabilitative alimony.
How much will be awarded depends on the laws of your state, the needs of each spouse, and the spouse's ability to pay spousal support. The length of payments and termination of support will be determined by your divorce decree, but alimony will generally end upon remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse. You can also read the questions below for more information about spousal alimony.
Michelle's Question: Is maintenance considered alimony, and what rights does someone have to enter a house that they have paid for with proven documentation?
Brette's Answer: Some states use the word "maintenance" instead of alimony - they are the same thing. If you own the home, and the other person does not have exclusive occupancy, you have the right to enter it. Talk to an attorney. Good luck.
Dawn's Question: What does preliminary maintenance mean?
Brette's Answer: Preliminary maintenance is temporary - while the case is pending. You can find out more by reading through our faqs on temporary support.
Kim's Question: How is it determined if a spouse is eligible for alimony?
Brette's Answer: Each state has different rules, so it is important that you talk to an attorney to understand your state laws. In general, however, alimony is determined by looking at the financial assets and income of the couple. Each person's income after marriage is considered. Some states consider bad behavior during the marriage (such as an affair) or depleting marital assets. Whether a spouse stayed home with children or as a supportive spouse is another important factor. How the couple financially supported each other and divided assets during the marriage is considered. Other factors are the length of the marriage, the health of the spouses, each person's earning abilities and skills, where the children will live and whether either spouse has wasted (used up irresponsibly) marital assets.
Sheila's Question: Are there any circumstances other than divorce where a person can receive alimony?
Brette's Answer: You can receive spousal support if you are physically separated.
Andrea's Question: My partner and I have got engaged a year ago. Today he informed he wishes to break the engagement. He is the bread winner of the home. Can I legally ask for Alimony from him?
Brette's Answer: No. You're not married so you are not legally entitled to any.
Josette's Question: He filed for divorce (after 20 years together) and just recently I received papers from Domestic Relations for a conference because he wants me to pay him spousal support. He was permanently laid off from his job and has been collecting Unemployment for over a year. I make more money than what his unemployment is. If he filed for divorce can he collect spousal support from me? And if so will it end when the divorce is final?
Brette's Answer: Spousal support (alimony) is ordered for a specified amount of time in most cases. It usually begins once the divorce is final, unless a temporary order is issued during the case. Either party can ask for it, regardless of who filed for divorce.
Ellen's Question: Approximately how much alimony would have to be paid after 30 years of marriage.
Brette's Answer: There is no set amount. It's based on all of the financial circumstances - salary, assets, debts, as well as considerations such as one spouse supporting another through school or starting a business, or one spouse being a homemaker.
Karen's Question: My divorce was filed and my ex signed his copy two months ago. How long does it take after filing for the alimony to start?
Brette's Answer: Has the order been signed and entered by the court? Once that is done, it becomes effective.
Libby's Question: My soon-to-be ex wants to transfer the lump sum spousal support into a 401K along with the other settlement money he is required to pay. I understand that I have to pay tax on the spousal support, but now I'll have to pay a fee to get the spousal support out to pay the bills. I was told I can borrow from the 401 k and pay myself back. I just want to pay my bills. Help me understand this.
Brette's Answer: He cannot place your money in a 401k unless the court ordered him to. To do so would be a violation of your order. Talk to your attorney.
Lynn's Question: We filed for an uncontested divorce without attorneys and signed an agreement that my husband will have to pay me alimony. Will he be able to get away with not paying or can the judge change the amount of alimony to something smaller?
Brette's Answer: Any settlement you reach has to be approved by the court. If it is reasonable, the court will not question it. Once it is ordered by the court, it must be paid or your ex faces contempt of court.
Kerry's Question: My attorney, after looking at our tax forms told me that I would receive $1500/month alimony for 5-7 years. My husband's attorney, after looking at pay stubs said that I would only receive $350 per month. That is a huge difference. What are your thoughts?
Brette's Answer: Well of course there's a difference! Your husband's attorney is underestimating what you will get and your attorney is overestimating. Negotiation will lead them to a number in between the two.
Mary's Question: After filing for divorce after 20 years of marriage, my soon to be ex took out new credit cards and increased his debt over $10,000 in order to reduce the amount of his future alimony. Will the Judge take his tactics into consideration in determining his ability to pay?
Brette's Answer: Assets and debts are generally distributed as of date of separation/date of filing. The judge will clearly understand what your ex did when it comes to alimony.
Lisa's Question: I am salaried part-time, and I have Crohn's disease and other medical issues that would make it extremely difficult to work full time. I wish to file for spousal support. Could my spouse be successful in fighting to get the calculations based on full-time income capacity, which would cut my support to very little?
Brette's Answer: Not if you can get a Doctor to testify.
Dianna's Question: When we divorced, the judge called us to his chambers and asked why I wasn't asking for maintenance (it was due to being scared of my husband). I said I just wanted out. The judge wouldn't do it that way and left it as "maintenance reserved". He said I may need help one day and change my mind. Well, that day is here. I am homeless and have serious medical issues. Would I be able to still get maintenance at this point?
Brette's Answer: Possibly. You can file a petition to ask for it since the judge left it reserved.
Kate's Question: I have been married for 18 years, and am now pursuing an absolute divorce due to 18 years of unfaithfulness. I am planning on asking the court for child support, part of his retirement, alimony, and a law suit that he has coming to him. Can I also ask for a one time monetary contribution for "pain and suffering" of the embarrassment, violation and the pain of a miscarriage due to the unfaithfulness? Also, we have a home that the children and I live in, can I get this in the divorce?
Brette's Answer: I would suggest consulting with an attorney in your state. Generally, alimony and property settlements are based on state laws about division and need. In some states though, punitive alimony is possible for "bad behavior" during the marriage. You can ask for ownership of the home. Good luck.
Carol's Question: My husband's worth is several million dollars, but most everything is his separate property. My husband has informed me that income earned from his separate property is what paid our monthly living expenses. Will our past living expenses affect the final settlement?
Brette's Answer: Separate property is definitely a consideration in calculating spousal support.
Maria's Question: I am receiving unemployment benefits so he claims I am not entitled to support. Is this true? And also, we had been living together for 6-7 years before we got married, and have been married for 3 years. Can I request support for the 6-7 years that we were not married in addition to the 3 years that we were married?
Brette's Answer: You are not entitled to support for the years you lived together before marriage, unless there was a specific agreement that he would support you. The fact that you receive unemployment does not disqualify you from spousal support, but it is a factor that is looked at when determining support. An attorney would be able to tell you exactly what a court in your state would be likely to award.
Edie's Question: I have been married for almost 5 years. He has never worked, and only has SS for income because he has had two strokes and numerous ailments. He also has no assets. I work in a bank as an Administrative Assistant. Will I have to pay alimony to him?
Brette's Answer: It is certainly possible, but it depends on what separate assets he has and what other marital assets there are. You should consult with an attorney who can take a look at the entire financial picture.
Shannon's Question: We do not have children together and everything is in my name. He has not worked since Feb this year. He has been staying home and helping with the kids after school and during the summer. We are getting a divorce. Will I be required to give spousal support until he finds a job and a place to live? Am I still responsible for him if he doesn't try to get a job or place to live?
Brette's Answer: It sounds like spousal support is likely. All you would have to do is send him payments. It's up to him to find a place to live. The general rule of thumb is duration of alimony is 1/3 the length of the marriage.
Mickey's Question: We have been married 15 years and I had an affair 2 years ago. We have both worked very hard for what we have, but he doesn't want me to have anything. He ultimately wants me to suffer and PAY for my affair! He was self-employed for the last 2 decades (paid under the table), and done well during this time to...equal to me most times. He states he will quit so he won't show any income, so I would have to pay him alimony. What are my rights? He says he will make it hard on me, no matter what.
Brette: You need to get a lawyer who will help you show what his actual income was and that he is quitting his job.
Lana's Question: My husband agreed to pay me $1000 in alimony, but the mediator is trying to tell me that he won't owe alimony because I'm planning on moving out of the state. Is this true?
Brette's Answer: Where you live has no effect on alimony.
Sherry's Question: My husband moved out after 48 years of marriage and wants a divorce. I have been a mom and homemaker all during the marriage, but now my health is not good and I have high medical bills. We are both retired, but his retirement is about twice what mine is. He is willing to split all the assets evenly, but am I entitled to any support in addition to the equity split?
Brette: You need legal representation. Call and ask for some referrals from the local or state bar association if you don't know who to call. Women who stay at home and support their spouse's careers are generally entitled to alimony. You may even qualify for lifetime alimony given your health and age. In a divorce, the home, cars, and other assets, if purchased during the marriage are marital property and must be divided by the court. Don't agree to anything before speaking with an attorney.
Cindy's Question: I have been married for 25 years. How long would I be able to receive alimony, and how much could I expect?
Brette's Answer: All of your marital property will be divided in the divorce and you can seek alimony. Alimony is generally awarded for 1/3 of the length of the marriage - so if you've been married 25 years, the standard would be for it to be paid for about 8 years. The amount of alimony would depend on each of your incomes and your entire financial situation.
Kim's Question: How will an affair affect whether spousal support is awarded or not?
Brette Answers: It depends on the state and your state laws. Spousal support is usually based on the finances of the people involved - whether one spouse has a need to obtain an education or training, or some support to become financially self-sufficient. In some states, bad behavior by one spouse is a factor, but the financial aspect is always weighed heavily. You should consult with an attorney who can discuss your state law with you in detail.
Tammy's Question: We married for over three years ago and have two young children. If we got a divorce, I wouldn't be able to pay for rent, daycare, and the car payment on what I make. I really want to get a divorce, but I'm scared about my financial situation. What options do I have?
Brette's Answer: If you decide to get a divorce, you can ask for spousal support (alimony), which would require your husband to pay you money to help you become financially stable. A court can also direct him to pay some of your household bills, such as child care. You would also be entitled to child support if you have primary custody of the children. Plus, marital assets will be divided if you divorce - it doesn't matter whose name is on the item. If it was bought during your marriage, it's something that can be divided.
Jasmin's Question: We have been married for 6 years and never had any children. Can I still ask for alimony if we never had kids and I work full time?
Brette's Answer: You are not automatically entitled to alimony and the rules in each state are different. Alimony is generally meant as a way to help the non-moneyed spouse get back on his or her feet. Sometimes it is punitive when there is bad behavior during the marriage. It will depend on your income disparity and your ability to be self-supporting. Talk to an attorney.
Becky's Question: My mother's will gives me property at her death. This will is revocable by her at any time for any reason. My mother is still alive but my spouse is saying because I stand to inherit, I do not need alimony and little from our own marital estate. Is this a permissible argument?
Brette's Answer: Not at all, since who knows when your mother will die or if she will change her will. You don't own anything from her yet.
Cheryl: I've been married for almost 4 years. I am a documented bipolar woman who has trouble dealing with day to day life, and my husband went behind my back and basically kicked me out. Would I be entitled to alimony seeing at the moment I cannot make it on my own?
Brette's Answer: Alimony is decided on a case by case basis, but in general if one spouse is in a situation like yours, alimony would definitely be a consideration. You should talk to an attorney. Good luck.
Valerie's Question: My husband is self-employed. Will it be more difficult for me to get alimony? I am 13 years older than my husband & worked for him in our construction business as Office Manager. Will he have to continue paying my medical premiums after we are divorced and I am no longer working for him?
Brette's Answer: His being self-employed shouldn't matter. However the court is going to consider how much he makes. The health insurance is an issue that would be decided by the court based on all of the circumstances of the case.
Chaina's Question: My husband gets paid off of straight commission. He threatens that because of this, he is the one who will receive alimony instead of me. Is this true? I spent the last 5 years of our marriage supporting our family. Can I receive compensation or will I end up being sorry I even tried?
Brette's Answer: Alimony is decided based on the entire financial situation of the family. Talk to an attorney who can review all the facts of your case and advise you. The fact that someone is paid by commission does not mean they don't have to pay alimony.
Keke Asks: We've only been married a little over a year and I haven't worked since we've been married. We have one car and he wants to take it. There will be no way for me to get a job if he does, and I won't be able to pay the bills by myself. Can I get alimony?
Brette's Answer: How did you support yourself prior to marriage? Alimony is usually not awarded for very short marriages and if it were, it would be for a very, very short period of time. Spousal support is normally granted for one third the length of the marriage, so in your case that would only be a few months. Everything you own which was purchased or earned during the marriage, including the car, is marital property and has to be divided in a way that is equitable under your state laws. He can't just take the car. Contact the local bar association and ask if there is a no-cost or low-cost legal services group in your area that can help you. If not, you can get a free consultation with a local matrimonial attorney who can discuss costs with you. Good luck.
Paula's Question: I filed for a divorce over 2 years ago, and am trying to get a Master's hearing to complete the divorce. I am the custodial parent of two children, and my ex has filed for APL support. This has eliminated the child support, and it shows that I owe him money each month. Is there any way to prove that he is using the APL to stall the divorce? I have done everything by the letter of the law, but he has an attorney which is not always ethical. The law doesn't state that the APL shows any credit for the custodial parent. I just want to raise my kids, even if it's without financial help from their father. I would think that the courts should not grant him APL or visitation. We were married for 17 years. I walked out with the kids and our clothes, and he got everything else. I need to appeal this ruling, but I've run out of money to pay an attorney. I would appreciate any help or suggestions you could give me.
Brette's Answer: I believe by APL you are referring to alimony pendente lite, which is a temporary award of alimony. To get this changed, you need to move forward with your case and get to a final order. You need to document your own living expenses and the costs associated with your children closely. Essentially you need to prove that you make less than he does and you cannot support him. I am disturbed that you walked out without any property- in your divorce decree or settlement you should obtain part of the assets of the marriage. Try to document what these are as best as you can. You can also file for alimony, seeking to have him pay you. It's all going to come down to your financial situations and personal situations, which the court will decide.
It is a very difficult situation when your spouse has an attorney and you cannot afford one. Find out if you qualify for free or reduced fee legal services by calling your local bar association. You can also ask the court to direct your spouse to pay your legal fees. If all else fails you may be able to work out a payment plan with an attorney.
Judi's Question: What is the difference between "allotment" and "alimony" in a divorce decree? And is the amount taxed and to which party?
Brette's Answer: I'm assuming you are referring to a military allotment. Alimony is taxable to the spouse who receives it and is tax deductible for the spouse paying it. As for a military allotment, it depends on what kind of allotment it is. If it is from pay then it is taxable and if it is non-taxable retirement, then it is not taxable.
Tina's Question: How long does person have to pay spousal support if married for 10 years, but legally separated for 4 years and paying consistently thru court order?
Brette's Answer: You need to check your court order. It will give the duration of the payments.
Rachel's Question: I was awarded alimony for 10 years and it is set to end next year. I had a job that paid 25k when I divorced, but I have been unemployed for the past 4 years due to health issues. I would like to marry my boyfriend, but his income is at poverty level. Can I petition to get the alimony extended until my retirement age? Will the court contact me before the alimony ends? I have been talking with the attorney who handled my divorce and he is being very evasive.
Brette's Answer: Alimony ends without any notification, based on the date in your decree. If you remarry it will likely end upon your remarriage (in most states this is automatic). It is unlikely you can obtain more alimony since it's been so long and there was no way to foresee your current circumstances. I would suggest you see another attorney to get a second opinion. Good luck.
Joan's Question: I've been divorced for a little over nine years. My spousal support should have ended, well, a long time ago. Still, the money is being paid to me year after year. How can I get this to stop?
Brette's Answer: First of all, be certain the money should have stopped. Check your divorce decree. If you are certain, you could just tell your ex you don't want it anymore and you will not accept it. If he continues to pay, mail the checks back.
Debbie's Question: I was married for 33 years and was a stay at home mom. My ex told me that when he retires he doesn't have to pay alimony anymore. Is that true? My divorce papers don't have an end date for the spousal support. How should I proceed?
Brette's Answer: You don't need to do anything right now. If he does stop paying, then you take him to court for violating the order.
Joseane's Question: My husband has been paying alimony to his ex for about 12 years. In his divorce paper, it says that he has to pay until she dies or remarries. So, what happens if he dies? Will I be obligated to pay his alimony?
Brette's Answer: No, alimony ends with the death of either party. Good luck.
Teresa's Question: My ex-husband lost his job and hasn't paid me alimony for 6 months and it appears he won't be able to get a job because of his age. When he dies can I sue for the portion of his life insurance proceeds that I am not designated as beneficiary to cover alimony in arrears?
Brette's Answer: The alimony would be a debt of his estate and settled from his estate. Life insurance is not included in the estate, it passes outside of probate. You can file now for violation/enforcement of the alimony, so you have it on the record that he is arrears.
Ann's Question: Per our Marital Settlement Agreement, my husband is decreed to pay me 3K per month for three years, at which point it states he needs to pay me 2500 for one more year and I am required to earn a min of 50K. My question - if I go back to work early and earn more than 50K --- does the spousal support payments end?
Brette's Answer: Unless your order says so, no. He can always seek to have it amended though and then the court would decide.
Sandy Asks: I've been divorced for 6 years and under the conditions of my current divorce settlement I will receive monthly support until my death, my ex-husbands death, or if I remarry. I am currently 54 years old. It does not state any condition in my current agreement about co-habitation with a boyfriend. If I did move into the home of a boyfriend is it possible that my ex-husband could have my support payments reduced or even completely eliminated?
Brette's Answer: I can't give you a complete answer because it could depend on the case law in your state. Another consideration is whether your state recognizes common law marriages (when two people live together for a certain period of time and are then considered legally married). You should call the attorney who represented you in the divorce case and ask so that you can get a complete and certain answer.
Amanda's Question: Does he still have to pay alimony if the wife is in a common law marriage?
Brette's Reply: It depends on whether the court order or state law specifies that alimony ends upon cohabitation.
Doris' Question: I would like to remarry, but do not know if the alimony will continue. It says nothing about this situation in my divorce papers.
Brette's Answer: Alimony ends when you remarry. In some jurisdictions it also ends when you cohabitate with someone.
Colleen's Question: Why is it that after 21 years of marriage my husband decides to leave and the alimony law does not allow me to re-marry or live with someone? Why am I being punished because he decided to end the marriage? I don't think it is right that he can move on and have no restrictions and I do.
Brette's Answer: Alimony is intended to help a spouse get back on their feet financially. Alimony always ends at remarriage because it is presumed a new spouse will provide financial support.
Kathy's Question: According to my divorce decree alimony will end when I remarry. Am I obligated to advise my ex-husband when I remarry? Am I breaking any laws if I do not volunteer the information?
Brette's Answer: No but you'll have to repay him the alimony he pays you while married once he finds out.
Susan' Question: My husband has paid alimony to his ex-wife for 9 years. She has been arrested twice for narcotics and has been in/out of drug rehabs the better part of the last 3 years. My husband would rather go to jail than pay her another dime (that will just be spent on illegal drugs). What recourse does he have?
Brette's Answer: He has to pay it.
Julia's Question: After a 16 year incredulously abusive marriage (he broke my back, my nose, my mental health, my spiritual health, etc.), I was granted permanent alimony. This past year I got breast cancer, and became unable to work due to a host of complications from my treatment. Since I'm not working, I run the risk of losing my insurance coverage because the alimony payments won't even pay for the premium. My ex-husband's income has increased substantially, while I am unable to work. Can I get my alimony increased or negotiate a lump sum settlement? How do I get this request for an increase rolling?
Brette Answers: I'm sorry to hear about your illness. It sounds like you have come through a lot and I have no doubt you will get through this as well. You could file a motion to have alimony modified based on your change of circumstances. To increase alimony this usually means there must be a change in your circumstances which makes your financial situation worse, however your ex's income would be a factor. However, it would be best to speak with your attorney to discuss your specific situation to see if you would meet your state's criteria for an increase in alimony. The court might also order your ex to pay for your attorney fees based on the circumstances of your divorce.
Shelly's Question: I'm already receiving alimony, but now my ex wants to pay me a lump sum because his work is slowing down and he might get laid off. If I agree, will he be able to do that since its already coming off his pay check every week?
Brette's Answer: The agreement or order would have to be modified to reflect that, but it can be done.
Kandice's Question: What can I do if he's not paying alimony?
Brette's Answer: If you have an attorney, call him or her immediately. You need to go back to the court that issued the order because he is violating the order.
Norma's Question: My ex husband says that the alimony he pays me has to be reduced by the same amount I earn working. Is that true? I work as a teacher assistant paid per hours for 9 months/year.
Brette's Answer: No. Alimony can only be changed by a court order.
Kathy's Question: My ex has been ordered by the court to pay alimony until I remarry or death. Now he says he is not paying because its time I remarry and quit expecting free money from him. What do I need to do?
Brette's Answer: If he stops paying, take your ex back to court for enforcement/violation of the order.
Bridget's Question: My husband has been ordered to pay full maintenance to me for 3 years, then a reduced rate for 2 years after that. He has threatened to quit his job if this goes through. What would happen if he quit his job?
Brette's Answer: Nothing happens unless he goes to court and asks for a reduction due to a change in circumstances.
Meredith's Question: I was awarded $1000.00 per month alimony over 20 years ago, but never received any alimony from him. I got three judgments against him, but was unable to collect on them and the judgment time has expired. Is the original order for $1000.00 per month still in effect?
Brette's Answer: It depends on your divorce decree and how long he was to pay you the alimony. Alimony is usually not lifetime and is usually for a set time period. He still owes you the back alimony he didn't pay even if he doesn't owe any more, although you would need to consult an attorney to understand what the statute of limitations is on this kind of debt.
Dawn's Question: Why is my spousal support considered taxable income when paid to me but a deduction for my ex-husband? Doesn't seem fair!
Brette's Answer: That's just the way the law is set up. If one person has to report money coming in, someone else has to report the money going out. It's considered taxable income because in a way it is meant to replace actual income until you are able to become self-supporting.
Marquita's Question: I want to prepare for tax time and set aside some money each month to allow for the taxes that I will have to pay on alimony. How do I figure out how much the tax on alimony will be?
Brette Answers: You should schedule a meeting with your tax preparer. You need to calculate what income bracket you will be in so you will know what percent you will owe.» Return to top
Kristie's Question: If I am receiving temporary alimony that is specified it is to be used for car payment only, do I have to report it on my income taxes?
Brette's Answer: Alimony is always taxable to the person receiving it if it is specified to be alimony.
Rosie's Question: My ex-husband is not filing a tax return for last year--no income to file--so is not going to report maintenance paid to me. If he is not reporting maintenance to me, would I still need to report maintenance received?
Brette's Answer: Whether he reports it or not, it is still taxable income for you.
Michelle's Question: I was divorced 4 years ago and receive alimony. We want to do settlement and cash out. Do we have to get an attorney to handle this and am I subject to taxes on that money?
Brette's Answer: Yes, alimony is taxable income. You should speak with an attorney because you might be able to structure it as property settlement which is not taxable.
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