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What is Spousal Support?

What is Spousal SupportSpousal support, also often referred to as alimony, is the legal obligation for a person to provide financial support to their spouse before or after a legal separation or divorce.  If you are on your way to divorce it is wise to consult a divorce attorney so that they can answer all of your questions in advance.  A top divorce lawyer in Livingston will be happy to meet with you and will be able to answer any question you have.

During the pendency of the divorce, and, after the divorce decree, one spouse may be entitled to financial support from the other.  The financial obligation to one’s ex-spouse permits the supported spouse to maintain a similar lifestyle as was enjoyed during the course of the marriage, until the spouse is able to support themselves.

There are five types of spousal support in New Jerseytemporary alimony, limited duration alimony, permanent alimony, rehabilitative alimony and reimbursement alimony.  The Judge will award one, or a combination, of these different types of spousal support.

A brief summary of each type of alimony

  • Temporary alimony is awarded by the judge to low-earning or unemployed spouses to cover living expenses during the pendency of the divorce proceedings.
  • Limited duration alimony is awarded by the judge based on the length of time it will take a low-earning or unemployed spouse to become self-supporting.
  • Permanent alimony is awarded by the judge after a marriage of long duration, in which one person gave up a career or education opportunities to either raise a family or further the spouse’s career or education.
  • Rehabilitation alimony is awarded by the judge after taking into consideration the steps needed for the low-paying or unemployed spouse to have expenses paid at the same time they will take educational courses or training for a job to eventually be self-supporting.
  • Reimbursement alimony compensates one spouse who has forsaken their career, and instead supported the other spouse through advanced education, having fully expected to reap the benefits of that advanced schooling, but instead will not due to dissolution of the marriage through legal separation or divorce.

Who decides what amount of spousal support shall be given?

If you are curious as to how long a person is obligated to support their ex-spouse, the recommendations are usually made in writing by the parties’ respective counsel to the judge who is presiding over the divorce proceeding, before the date of the hearing where the final decree will be rendered.

Alimony payments will get tweaked

Life events happen – whether they are for the good or for the bad.  After a contentious divorce, each party may swear off marriage forevermore, but then “the right someone” comes along, and there is a large change of heart.  The person receiving alimony payments that chooses to remarry knows in advance the alimony payments must cease.  When the marriage is to a person of the opposite sex, it is the responsibility of the spouse receiving alimony payments to advise her ex-spouse of the remarriage.  A judge may issue an order based on a life event, or, in the case of proving that a rehabilitation effort to procure a job did not work out as planned.

As you would expect, the death of either spouse will terminate all forms of alimony.

Also, if the parties’ marital separation agreement indicates a certain date for terminating alimony, and such has been approved by the court, then at that time, the alimony payments will cease.

Alimony and its tax implications

Alimony is treated as reportable income and alimony payments are tax deductible.  Alimony is never a one-time payment, as in a lump sum, although there may be extenuating circumstances where this may be done, but as a general rule, such a lump sum payment would put the person receiving the alimony into a different tax bracket.  In general, all alimony received and paid is stated on federal tax returns.

A big bone of contention

Alimony and child support are the cause of much frustration when divorce occurs, with alimony the number one bone of contention post marriage.  This is why, if an agreement satisfactory to both parties can be made prior to filing the divorce proceedings, there will be less angst and stress involved, and the divorce proceedings process will go much smoother.  This is why in all divorce cases it is best to consult with an attorney prior to filing, and each party should retain their own counsel to ensure that their individual interests are protected.   There are sure to be questions for your attorney, and, of course there are friends and family who are more than willing to offer their piece of advice and/or a “story”, usually a tale of bad news.  For this reason, you should always consult with a counselor whose practice specializes in divorce, like a top divorce lawyer in Livingston, New Jersey.  He or she will answer your questions, ask all the right questions, then clarify what records and personal papers will be necessary to help him/her help you traverse the sad journey from once-marital bliss to that of divorced life.