According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary
alimony is “an allowance made to one spouse by the other for support pending or after legal separation or divorce”. Alimony can also be known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, which is self-explanatory. Alimony is intended to be an extension of the obligation to support after separation or divorce. For example, Frank has an income of $150,000 and Joan has an income of $30,000. Alimony would be money Frank pays to Joan to help keep her in the lifestyle to which she was accustomed.
- Length of the marriage
- Income of the parties
- The ability to self-support
- Fault in marital breakdown
- The ability to pay
- Future earning potential
- Professional degree support
- Time separated while still married
- Age of the parties at the time of the divorce
Marriage has changed dramatically over the decades. Half of the American workforce is now consisted of women. Though alimony, a concept conceived in times past, has remained remarkably constant, its demise may be approaching. The idea that a man should be obligated to support his wife for the rest of their life, even long after the marriage has failed, is being called into question. Pressures are mounting to change a practice that some see as outdated and unfair.
State alimony laws, many passed in the 1960s and 1970s, were designed to help the stay-at-home mothers of the day, who had little prospects of making a decent wage after divorce. There are many states that allow for the ex-spouse to receive payments until one of them dies, be it one year or thirty years. Supporters of alimony say the money compensates some spouses who have given up careers for families and is particularly vital to low and middle-income women. Detractors have long called the laws unfair in an age when many women work, and punitive in nature.
The determination of the amount of alimony varies greatly from state to state and even court to court.
The different types of alimony.
- Temporary Alimony: Support ordered when the parties are separated prior to divorce.
- Rehabilitative Alimony: Support given to a lesser earning spouse for a time necessary to acquire work outside the home and become self-sufficient.
- Permanent Alimony: Support paid to the lesser earning spouse until the death of the payor, the death of the recipient, or the remarriage of the recipient.
- Reimbursement Alimony: Support given as reimbursement for expenses incurred by a spouse during the marriage.
Amounts paid under divorce or separate maintenance decrees or written separation agreements entered into between you and your spouse or former spouse will be considered alimony for Federal tax purposes if:
- You and your spouse or former spouse do not file a joint return with each other
- You pay in cash (including checks or money orders)
- The payment is received by (or on behalf of) your spouse or former spouse
- The decree of divorce or separate maintenance does not say that the payment is not alimony
- If legally separated under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance, you and your former spouse are not members of the same household when you make the payment
- You have no liability to make the payment (in cash or property) after the death of your spouse or former spouse, and your payment is not treated as child support or a property settlement
The issue of alimony begs the question of whether someone should be punished, possibly for the rest of their lives, for bad decisions and a failed relationship. In a world where more than 50% of marriages fail and many women now earn their own paychecks, is there a fundamental need for one person to provide for the separate household of their ex spouse? The time has come for the practice of alimony to be revised for a more modern world.