Getting a divorce can be one of the most difficult times in a person's life. There are many unknowns when going through a divorce. Understanding the ins and outs of alimony can help clarify a few of those uncertainties.
Here's an alimony calculator that will help you get an idea of the payments and duration.
Here are answers to some of the most common questions about alimony. If you have a question that we didn't answer here, contact us.
Alimony, also called spousal support or spousal maintenance, are payments from one spouse to another after a divorce has been filed. There are temporary and permanent types:
The goal of alimony is to maintain equity and support after a divorce, in order to ensure an ex-spouse can continue to live a lifestyle they've become acquainted with during the marriage.
Alimony is meant to help the spouse who may have forgone a career during the marriage to take care of the home or raise children.
Alimony avoids forcing a spouse to abruptly fend for themselves and helps give them the means to get back on their feet after the divorce.
Alimony is paid by the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse. In other words, when a spouse makes more money than another spouse, they will be the spouse who pays spousal maintenance.
Several factors determine the amount of alimony paid:
Yes, it is highly recommended that you get a lawyer to help you through the process. There may be a lot of legal aspects that need to be considered in order to reach a decision on the duration and amount of alimony awarded.
Child support affects alimony because it is considered income. Alimony is commonly calculated after child support, and child support is deemed more important. However, this varies per state. In some areas, child support may be calculated after spousal support.
The number of children you and your spouse have can affect the alimony payment. The more children a couple has, the more child support will be, adding to the receiver's income and lowering the spousal support payment if given to the same person who receives child support.
If you or your spouse have a minor from a prior relationship, child support for this minor is still taken into consideration depending on the circumstances.
Yes, there are different guidelines in every state. While each state has alimony statutes, the requirements and types of spousal maintenance differ. This can change the amount awarded significantly.
There isn't one formula for calculating alimony. Several formulas are commonly used, and the amount of alimony can still fluctuate depending on various factors.
Here are the common alimony formulas:
The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) supplies a formula they consider nationally pertinent. The AAML states that alimony should be 30% of the payor's gross income subtracted by 20% of the gross income of the payee.
However, the payee's total income including the spousal support can not exceed 40% of the combined gross income of both the payor and payee.
Judge Ginsburg Formula:
The Ginsburg formula is another commonly used formula, and it states that the payor's income after the payment of alimony should equal the total of the payor's income and the payee's income divided by 1.8.
The California formula can vary depending on what county you reside in.
Generally, the guidelines for calculating alimony will take 35-40% of the paying spouse's income and subtract 40-50% of the receiving spouse's income.
There are no guidelines for the formula. However, the statutory guidelines state that the term should be half the length of the marriage.
Another commonly used formula is the "1/3, 1/3, 1/3" formula, also known as the one-third rule. Here, you add both spouses' income, divide by three, and then subtract the lower income from that amount.
If the amount exceeds zero, that is the amount of alimony that should be paid.
The Maricopa County guidelines state that alimony should be given for anywhere between about 30% and 50% of the length of the marriage. However, these percentages can fluctuate depending on several other factors. Consult a licensed Arizona lawyer for more information.
New York Formula:
New York has a fixed formula.
If the payor is also paying child support as a non-custodial parent, maintenance should be equal to 20% of the payee's income. Otherwise, it is equal to 30% of the payor's income minus 20% of the payee's income.
In either situation, the temporary maintenance is capped at 40% of the spouse's combined income. For purposes of calculation, the payee's income and the payor's income are limited to $192,000.
If income is greater than the limit after subtracting Social Security, Medicare, etc., then the formula won't apply and a judge will decide the spousal maintenance based on other factors.
Specific guidelines don't exist, but it can be suggested to use the following formula guidelines for Johnson County.
The Johnson County Formula uses gross incomes to calculate alimony payments.
The spousal support amount should be equal to about 25% of the difference in the spouse's gross income. If the difference in gross annual income is greater than $50,000, it's calculated at 25% plus 15-22% of the remaining difference.
Maintenance duration is equal to one third of the total duration of the marriage, to a max of 121 months. Alimony can be reinstated upon expiration.
The Illinois basic formula is as follows: (33% of the payer's net income) - (25% of the recipient's net income) = yearly maintenance.
The amount awarded can't cause the receiving spouse to earn more than 40% of the couple's combined income.
The Massachusetts formula states the amount of alimony generally should not exceed the recipient's need or 30-35% of the difference between the couple's gross incomes set at the time that the order was issued.
The Pennsylvania formula states that if a couple does not have children, you take 33% of the payor's net income and 40% of the payee's net income, and the difference will be the alimony.
If the couple has children, you will take 25% of the payor's net income and 30% of the payee's net income, and then the difference will be how much is payable in spousal support.
A number of things can happen to a payor who does not pay alimony. Social Security benefits can be withheld or a spouse can be held in contempt of court.
A judge can order garnishment of your spouse's wages or levies on their bank accounts. Liens against their property can be established to ensure payment or a transfer of property title from the payor to the payee can be made.
However, the reason for missed payments is taken into consideration. If the payor loses their job or is injured or ill, an updated agreement may be made. If the payor decides they no longer want to pay, the payee may have to file a motion and return to court to ask a judge to order late and future payments.
If the payor fails to pay, there are a few ways alimony can be enforced:
If a spouse owes a lot in alimony, the dependent spouse may appeal to the court and get a court-issued money judgment against the spouse for the total amount owed with interest.
If you make alimony payments and your divorce agreement was finalized before Dec. 31, 2018, your payments are still tax deductible.
However, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminated the deduction for alimony and requires that alimony be claimed as taxable income for any divorce finalized after Dec. 31, 2018.
Generally, the longer a marriage was, the longer the duration of the alimony payment. This can depend on the state in which the couple resided during marriage.
For example, in Illinois alimony for a 5-year marriage should last about 2.4 years, and for a 10-year marriage it should last 4.4 years. However, in Massachusetts the duration of payments for a 5-year marriage is calculated to be no more than half the number of months of the marriage.
Yes, depending on the stipulations of the prenuptial agreement. However, a prenuptial agreement can be overturned. A judge can overturn the agreement for unforeseen circumstances, including if a spouse's health has substantially changed.
Yes, in some cases palimony can be granted. However, many states require a written agreement.
A court may grant alimony to common-law marriages in states that recognize it. A common-law marriage is when a couple lived together but never acquired a marriage license. If the couple treated their relationship like a married couple, taking actions like using the same last name, filing a joint income tax, and referring to each other as spouses.
It can. If you are having another child and the expenses of raising your child affect your capacity to pay spousal maintenance, the court can take that into consideration.
Alimony payments can end if the dependent spouse gets remarried, but if the supporting spouse who pays alimony gets remarried, the payments do not end. However, this can be affected by a number of factors.
You may be able to end alimony payments if a spouse is cohabitating with a new romantic partner. This will depend on a number of factors, one being whether or not the spouse's financial situation has improved due to this cohabitation.
Yes, if there has been a change in an individual's circumstances, alimony payments can be changed after a divorce. If a payee no longer needs payments or a payor is no longer able to provide spousal support, alimony payments can be modified or terminated.
Alimony calculators can provide a good estimate, but they are not exact.
There are many factors considered before a final ruling on an alimony amount. Calculators don't consider a judge's assessment of the circumstances surrounding the divorce nor the various guidelines and rules for each state.
Disclaimer: Alimony payments vary by state and may depend on a court and judge. In some states, alimony is not determined by a formula. Instead, it may be determined based on the factors of each case as well as statutory factors. The alimony calculator here is not intended to be relied upon to determine alimony, nor does it represent a recommendation for alimony. Consult with an attorney to determine how much alimony you can expect to receive or pay.
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