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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.

Property Division Alimony

Property Division Alimony is ordered by the Court when (among other times) the marital estate consists of property that cannot easily be sold or divided. A typical example is a professional practice such as a law firm or dentistry office. It is difficult to sell or divide such properties but they can have great value. When the total property division cannot be made to the Court's satisfaction from the other assets of the marital estate then the Court might enter a Property Division Alimony order.
Generally the party retaining the indivisible but valuable property will be ordered to pay the other party a sum of money periodically until a sum of money representing the other party's interest in the valuable property is paid in full. This order differs from a spousal support order in that it cannot be modified by the Court after it is entered in the normal course of litigation.
Property Division Alimony is frequently an issue when high-asset marriages are dissolved.