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Top 10 Things to Know About Collecting Alimony in a Divorce

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Alimony, sometimes called spousal support, is the payments made by one spouse to the other after a divorce. The purpose is to ensure the spouse receiving alimony can continue to live in or close to the standard in which he or she lived when married. Read on for the top 10 things to know about collecting alimony in a divorce.

  1. Alimony isn’t just for wives: While it is most commonly thought of as husbands paying wives, the reality is that alimony may be appropriate for either spouse if he or she makes considerably less money or if he or she needs financial support and has been getting it throughout the marriage.
  2. Alimony isn’t always guaranteed: Alimony is decided on a case by case basis. The court will look at various factors such as each party’s income or potential to make income, as well as whether one party has made career sacrifices for the family such as staying home to raise children.
  3. The laws for alimony differ by state: Each state has slightly different rules for calculating alimony and for determining whether it is appropriate in a given situation.
  4. Alimony is different than child support: Child support is specifically designed to provide for children, while alimony is designed to take care of a spouse. They are determined separately and awarded separately, with the court typically viewing child support as more important.
  5. The longer you have been married, the more likely it is you will receive alimony: For marriages over 10 year especially, it is far more likely you will be given a larger divorce settlement and/or more alimony.
  6. Alimony is different than an entitlement to retirement or Social Security benefits: When you have been married for 10 or more years, you may be entitled to a portion of your spouse’s Social Security or pension under the law. This is distinct from alimony, which is worked out separately as part of a divorce settlement.
  7. Alimony is affected by how much each party makes: If one person makes significantly more or less than the other, alimony is more likely to be awarded by the court.
  8. A person’s career opportunities can also affect alimony: When determining alimony, the court will look not only at what a person actually makes, but also at his potential.
  9. An individual’s actions during the marriage may play a role in whether alimony is appropriate: If one spouse helped another through school, that may factor in to the judge’s alimony decision or may impact the type of divorce settlement that the individual receives.
  10. Alimony is taxable income for the person receiving it and tax deductible for the person paying it: This means that it must count as taxable income and must be listed on a tax return. The person paying the alimony can deduct the amount from taxable income.
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