A large percentage of divorcing couples end their marriages with one spouse agreeing to pay the other a set amount of money each month. Known as alimony, the amount of the payments and the length of time they are to be made may be negotiated by the spouses or dictated by a judge. Ideally, the couple would negotiate the terms in private. If they are unable to agree on the terms, they’ll be forced to rely on a judge to decide the matter.
Divorce courts have considerable latitude when it comes to issues regarding alimony (sometimes referred to as spousal support). To a divorcing couple, the judge’s decisions may seem uninformed, unfair, and even arbitrary. This article will describe the different types of support, and explain when each is likely to be ordered.
#1 – Permanent Alimony
When someone mentions that he or she is paying spousal support, this is the type that usually springs to the listener’s mind. However, it’s one of the least common types observed in settlement negotiations.
When permanent alimony is ordered, the support payments continue until one or both parties is dead. Oftentimes, however, the payments can stop if the recipient remarries.
This form of support is mostly seen in cases where the couple has been married for a substantial number of years and the recipient is unlikely to gain employment. It may also be ordered if the dependent party is handicapped and thereby unable to work.
#2 – Reimbursement Alimony
Spouses often agree to support their partners while they attend school, receive specialized training, or pursue some other type of endeavor. They do so with the understanding that the supported party will eventually use his or her newly-acquired education, skills, or other assets to later help support the couple.
Unfortunately, many couples call it quits before that happens. As a result, the spouse that supported the other person is unable to enjoy the fruits of that person’s new education or skill set.
A judge can order the supported spouse to pay the other spouse reimbursement alimony. The payments are meant to compensate the latter for subsidizing his or her partner.
#3 – Temporary Alimony
Temporary support may be ordered by the judge when a married couple separates, but has yet to finalize their divorce. The alimony payments are meant to provide the dependent party with enough money to pay his or her bills and maintain his or her lifestyle.
The payments typically stop once the divorce is final. At that time, the judge may order the higher-earning spouse to support the other permanently or until he or she can gain marketable skills and find employment.
#4 – Rehabilitative Alimony
Rehabilitative alimony may be ordered if one spouse stayed at home during the marriage while the other spouse worked. The payments give the dependent spouse financial breathing room. The support allows him or her time to undergo training or obtain a degree that can be used to seek employment. Once the training or degree program has been completed, he or she is expected to find a job.
The support payments usually continue as long as the dependent spouse is actively looking for work. The paying spouse can seek to have the judge’s support order rescinded if he or she feels the recipient is not putting forth sufficient effort to that end.
Lump-Sum Payment Vs. Alimony Payments
Many spouses who are eligible to receive alimony opt to receive a single large payment rather than monthly payments over a period of years. Some prefer it because obtaining a lump-sum payment upfront eliminates the risk of receiving lower payments in the future if their ex-spouses lose their jobs. Others seek the money upfront so they can use it to start a business, relocate, or make a substantial purchase.
If both parties agree to a lump-sum payment in lieu of ongoing spousal support, a divorce court judge need not be involved in the decision.
Issues involving alimony can be both confusing and frustrating for both parties. If you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce, consult a qualified divorce attorney for advice regarding your spousal rights. If alimony is likely to be part of your settlement agreement, your attorney can help you create a strategy that will streamline the divorce process.