Contrary to popular belief, spousal support, or alimony, is not dead. There is still a legitimate need for one spouse to pay the other spouse monetary payments, even if only temporarily. It's important that you understand that spousal support is very different from child support, which is available for minor and college-aged children. If you are divorcing, failing to take into consideration the issue of spousal support could have a major impact on your financial well-being for some time. Before your divorce is final, read these important facts about spousal support to help you make an informed decision.
1. Throughout its history, spousal support has been used to help bring financial equity to a spouse that lacks education or career experience, sometimes due to having sacrificed their education or career goals to focus on raising a family, or in some cases, to focus on the educational and career goals of the other spouse.
2. A spouse can begin receiving spousal support even before the marriage formally ends. You will need a legal separation agreement in place and filed with the court, which could cover spousal support, child support, custody and visitation.
3. While alimony has in the past been linked to wrong-doing by the other spouse, few states today consider spousal support to be a punishment for adultery or other misdeeds. Spousal support is instead based on the needs of the receiving spouse.
4. In divorce proceedings, the higher earning spouse is responsible for paying any spousal support. This means that high earning females can be ordered to pay the male support payments.
5. If you fail to include any spousal support provisions in the divorce decree, you are effectively waiving your rights to support. Family court judges are very reluctant to re-open divorce proceedings to add in spousal support provisions.
6. Temporary spousal support is more common than permanent support. If you are awarded permanent support, provisions can be put in place for the support to continue after your ex-spouse's death through the use of estate planning.
7. Since a major motive for spousal support is assisting spouses who have missed out on educational opportunities, many states refer to temporary spousal support as rehabilitative support. You are expected to use the payments for college and/or job training with the ultimate goal of being financially independent.
8. Once a spousal support provision is in place, the agreement can be modified with a hearing. Common reasons for modification include changes in financial or marital circumstances by either party.
9. Make sure that you understand that the IRS considers spousal support income to be taxable, unlike child support. The issue of spousal support can be both complicated and potentially contentious, so discuss this important financial issue with your divorce attorney, who can help you view the long-term benefits versus the possible risk of conflict.
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