Spousal Support Alimony
Alimony is a support payment for a spouse and can be awarded during the pendency of the divorce (divorce has not been granted yet) as well as when the divorce is granted by the Court.
Alimony is calculated as follows:
- The party demanding alimony presents evidence that their financial needs exceed their present income, this is known as their "need"
- The party demanding alimony also presents such evidence as is available to establish that their spouse has income in excess of their own financial need, this is known as their "ability to pay"
- The party opposing alimony presents similar evidence about each party's "need" and "ability to pay"
The Court, if it decides that alimony is justified, then makes findings regarding each party's need and ability to pay. If the Court finds that there exists both an actual "need" and an actual "ability to pay" then the Court may enter an order to pay alimony consistent with those findings. If the Court finds that either the "need" or the "ability to pay" is lacking then the Court may not enter an order to pay alimony.
When entering an alimony order the Court is required to set it forth such that the total amount to be paid can be calculated from the face of the order. Spousal Support Alimony that is indeterminate in either amount or number of payments is not allowed.
An allowable example of Spousal Support Alimony is "$1000.00 per month for twelve months." The total amount owed can be calculated. This is referred to as the "sum certain for a time certain" rule.
An illegal Support Alimony order might be "Husband must pay $1000.00 per month as support alimony until Wife dies." We don't know when wife is going to die (hopefully) so we cannot calculate the amount of alimony from the face of the order. An appellate court may overrule such an order. Another disallowed example would be "Wife must pay Husband 20% of Wife's gross income for twelve months." Here we know how long the payments must be paid but we cannot know from the face of the order how much each payment is.
A Support Alimony order can be modified by the Court upon a showing of a change of circumstances. Either the need or ability to pay could change making the original order unreasonable. Other reasons for a change can include co-habitation or re-marriage of the supported party.