Following a divorce, it is common for there to be a large change in at least one partner’s financial situation. Depending on the need and the circumstances, you may be required to pay alimony to your ex or your ex may be required to pay alimony to you. 

Also known as spousal support, alimony is a serious part of divorce proceedings. If you are in the Dearborn area and need a family lawyer on your side who knows the ins and outs of spousal support, then contact John R. Foley, P.C. today. Our family law firm is conveniently located and our team of divorce lawyers has experience with everything from child support and custody to alimony and bankruptcy law. When you work with us, you will find that you have a family lawyer who supports you and represents you well in court. If alimony is a concern as you move forward with divorce proceedings, then keep reading to learn the basics of spousal support. Of course, you can also contact us today to meet with a family lawyer in Dearborn and discuss your case.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is also often referred to as “spousal support” or “maintenance.” It is a legal obligation to provide financial support to a spouse following a legal separation or divorce. It is determined by a court and there are several key aspects to keep in mind:

  • Alimony typically is not awarded for short marriages
  • Alimony typically is not awarded for marriages in which both parties earn close to the same amount
  • Alimony is often awarded for marriages in which one partner earns substantially more than the other

A common misconception is that alimony needs to be paid for the completely foreseeable future. Understandably, this can feel overwhelming as you move through the divorce process. On the contrary, the divorce court will often award alimony for a set time period. Let’s say you are ordered to pay alimony to your ex. You would have to pay a specified amount each month until:

  • A date set by a judge (typically several years in the future)
  • Your former spouse remarries
  • Your children no longer require a stay-at-home parent
  • Your former spouse has not made enough effort to become self-supporting (as deemed by a judge)
  • You retire (which could modify the amount paid)
  • You or your former spouse die

As you can see, spousal support is a complex matter and it may not be as long-term as you initially anticipate. It is meant to help both partners get back on their feet, so to speak. If you receive alimony, then you are expected to become self-sufficient; this could mean going back to school, receiving additional training, or finding a job with your current skills. If you pay alimony, then remember that this is money you had intended to spend on your spouse/household for the foreseeable future regardless and that it will not last forever.

What Determines Alimony?

So, how are the amount of money and the length of time for paying alimony determined? If you file for divorce through mediation, then you and your partner will work together to determine the parameters. Likewise, you and your spouse can agree to the length of time and amount that will be paid during divorce proceedings. If you cannot agree, then the court will set the terms for you (you will, of course, have the help of your family lawyer during this). 

There are two main aspects that are used by family lawyers to determine spousal support: need and ability to pay.

Need for the Support

As mentioned earlier in the blog, there would be a great need for alimony if one partner spent all of or the majority of their time managing the household and raising children. These important roles provided for the family just as the role of bringing in money did. While in the role of stay-at-home parent, this partner may have lost valuable skills, qualifications, experience, and more to make them profitable in the workforce. As they have adjusted to a certain quality of life, it can be necessary to provide them with money until they can become self-supporting again. 

The takeaway: spousal support is typically determined by evaluating the capacity to earn, how much your spouse earns, and your standard of living during the marriage.

Ability to Pay for the Support

All this being said, family lawyers and the court will also look at one’s ability to pay for the support. Depending on their income, your ex-partner may not always be able to support you financially and the divorce process will certainly take this into account. Though it may not be as much as you would like, any spousal support you receive will be of help as you navigate life after divorce or after a dual-income lifestyle.

If You Expect to Pay Alimony

Perhaps you know there is a good chance you will pay alimony because you have been the main breadwinner while your partner managed the household and children. If your family lawyer agrees that it is likely you will pay alimony, then get to work now on preparing for the future. You will have more household tasks to keep up with than before and it will appear as though you have less expendable income, even though it is money you were already spending on your partner and household. Make a promise to yourself now that you will always pay your alimony on time and in full — this is just part of being an honest person, but it will also look good on your record. Be prepared to save money and cut costs wherever possible in order to be financially ready for what the future holds.

If You Expect to Receive Alimony

If you expect to receive alimony (either from your own understanding or from what a family lawyer has told you), know that it is not permanent and that you will need to make changes as you move forward. Why? To start with, alimony is not a guaranteed check for the next 50 years; it has an expiration date, so to speak, set by the court. You will need to learn to be financially independent and self-supporting no later than that date.

Perhaps you did not work full-time while married, but you had a part-time job. That part-time job may not be enough anymore. You may need to find a full-time job to ensure you can earn the income you need to be self-supporting. It is also a good idea to save as much money as possible once you increase your pay at work and still receive alimony; this will help set you up for financial success in the future.

Alimony and Taxes

Spousal support is considered tax-deductible if you are the paying spouse and is considered taxable income if you are the supported spouse. So, whether you pay or receive alimony, it is essential that you keep detailed, accurate records. Here is what you should include in your records to make sure you are ready for taxes:

Paying Spouse:

  • The date, check number, and address check was sent to for each payment
  • Receipts (signed by the recipient if in cash; originals for the checks if you paid via check)

Supported Spouse:

  • The date received, check number, account number, name of bank, and amount received for each alimony payment
  • Receipts (copy of your signed receipt if cash; photocopy of the check or money order)

What to Do When Alimony Is Not Paid

If you are awarded alimony during your divorce, then you are not able to support yourself financially without it. Should your ex-partner refuse to pay the spousal support, you will be in a difficult and emotionally stressful situation. A family lawyer can help — and immediate action is recommended.

The divorce lawyers at John R. Foley, P.C. can help with this legal service. Monthly alimony payments can be enforced by the law, and our family lawyers can help make sure this is a reality. After the court has ordered that alimony be paid to you, there is no reason you should not receive it.

Meet With a Family Lawyer in Dearborn Today

Whether you are just starting the divorce process, you are interested in learning more about alimony, or your ex-spouse refuses to pay alimony, our family lawyers can help. Here at John R. Foley, P.C., we have focused on employment litigation and family law since 1981. With more than 30 years of experience, our family law firm — and our team of experienced lawyers — is the one you can count on.

We work with clients throughout Dearborn and Plymouth, and we would love to assist you in your family law case today. Be sure to check out 8 Financial Tips When Going Through a Divorce to help guide you through the financial waters of divorce even more, and contact us today. Our family lawyers in Dearborn are here to help.