How Do The Courts Determine Alimony?

What do the courts take into consideration when determining if alimony and whether or not it is paid?

Answer: Ability to Pay

The first consideration when settling a spouse’s alimony obligation would be the ability to pay alimony. The court looks at the spouses gross income and reduces it by subtracting all mandatory deductions to come up with the net income.

In many states, no alimony is awarded if both spouses are able to support themselves. If one spouse was dependent on the other during the duration of the marriage, that spouse is often awarded alimony for a rehabilitative period. This could be a time period lasting anywhere from several months to several years.
If a spouse becomes self – supporting before the end of the court ordered support period the paying spouse can petition for the courts to terminate the alimony. In, however, the spouse is unable to become self – supporting during the allotted time he/she may also petition the courts for an extension of alimony. In some states this can only be done to keep the spouse from going on welfare.

Standard of Living During Marriage
When a court sets alimony, it often considers the standard of living during the marriage and tries to maintain this standard for both spouses where possible. Maintenance of a standard of living is more of a goal when it comes to alimony, than a guarantee.

Length of Marriage
If a marriage is relatively short and there are no children, the courts often refuse to award alimony. If there are children under school age, however, the courts often award alimony to the spouse who is given physical custody. Most courts feel that a child under school age is better served by having a full time parent at home.

Tax Consequences of the Alimony
For federal income tax purposes, alimony paid under a written court order is deductible by the spouse who pays and is taxable to the recipient of the alimony. Child support, on the other hand, is tax – free to the recipient and not deductible by the spouse who pays.

At the time of divorce, the court allocates debt incurred during the marriage between the spouses based on who benefits most from the asset that came with the debt. If the court orders a spouse to pay a large portion o the marital debts, it often reduces the amount of alimony that the spouse is ordered to pay.

Professional Degree of License
Courts will not only take into consideration the amount of financial support given during a marriage but, also the amount of emotional support. If a spouse worked and supported the other spouse through school, some states will take this into consideration. The spouse could ask for and receive compensation in the form of alimony for all the years he/she worked why the other was in school