Article: Things to Understand About Spousal Support

By: (619) DIVORCE (Attorneys)

If you’re in the process of getting a divorce, looking for spousal support, or anticipate paying spousal support, you need to understand some important things. While a family law attorney can provide you with specifics about your situation, here are a few general things to know, including tax laws, awarding of spousal support, and what would happen if spousal support payments are not made.


Spousal support, commonly known as alimony, is for people who were legally married and provides financial assistance to them. It recognizes the contributions a partner made to the marriage and is intended to help the partner obtain financial independence. The rules regarding spousal support differs from one state to another.


When a court hears a case for spousal support, it considers a number of issues including how long the marriage lasted, what the needs are of each spouse, the standard of living the marriage created and maintained, assets, spousal age, and many other factors that are specific to different states. Based on these various circumstances and issues, your divorce attorney can help create a case for spousal support for you.


The court sets the length of time spousal support payments are made based on the review of arguments made. Payments typically last about the length of the marriage if it’s less than 10 years. In other words, if the marriage lasted six years, the length of spousal supports payments to be paid is three years.

For longer marriages, the court may not set a specific time for spousal support payments. In a case such as this, your divorce attorney must prove your side for the duration. Your attorney can help you establish your case for the amount of time you’re seeking for spousal support, whether you are receiving or paying the payments. Using common law, the court will listen to all arguments and then decide on the spousal support duration.


If “Lifetime” or “Permanent” spousal support has been ordered by the court, it means the support must be paid to the receiving spouse until the paying spouse dies. Sometimes it is ordered to be paid until the receiving spouse remarries, however, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes the court will rule that even if the receiving spouse remarries they must still be paid spousal support.

Since women are becoming a stronger element in the workforce, “permanent” or “lifetime” spousal support is being awarded less often, if at all. An appellate court has stated:

As recognized by our Supreme Court, the public policy of this state has progressed from one which entitled some women to lifelong alimony as a condition of the marital contract of support, to one that entitles eithis spouse to post-dissolution support for only so long as is necessary to become self-supporting.

When determining spousal support, the court usually requires the highest earner, whether they are the husband or the wife, to assist the lower earner in an effort to help maintain their standard of living for a specified period of time.


The length of spousal support payments could also depend on whether the spouse who is getting the support has any changes in their financial situation, such as starting a new job or getting a raise. The purpose of spousal support is to make sure the spouse receiving it has financial safeguards. If the spouse receiving support doesn’t need it anymore in order to maintain their financial stability, the court may decide that they no longer need the spousal support they are receiving.


There are certain basic tax laws you have to keep in mind during and after your divorce if you’re going to be paying or receiving spousal support.

The bottom line if receiving spousal support is that you have to declare it as income on your taxes. On the other hand, if you’re paying it, you get to deduct it on your taxes. Spousal support is different from child support since child support is neither declared nor deducted on your taxes.


When calculating spousal support (i.e., alimony) agreements, you have to remember this rule since it impacts the bottom line of your finances. The decision and ruling reflect your intentions when it’s time to do your taxes. For example, you may decide that the spouse who is paying the spousal support should agree to pay the tax liability of the spouse who is receiving the spousal support. You should discuss this with your family law attorney during the hearing for your spousal support determination.

If you’re still on good terms with your spouse, it would be helpful to discuss and decide on the best tax deal that would work for you both. If you’re not on good times, this might be difficult to come to a mutual tax deal decision, but if you can manage come to a mutual agreement it will save both of you lots of time and headaches when it’s tax season.

If you get spousal support you should prepare for a potential impact when tax time comes. Your ex isn’t able to withhold income taxes from your support checks, which means you have to account for the taxes when you file your tax return. Because of this, you may want to consider paying taxes on a quarterly basis, which will save you from being hit with a big tax liability when April 15th comes around.

If you’re paying spousal support remember you can deduct the payments on your income taxes. However, you can’t deduct child support or any property distribution. The IRS frequently scrutinises spousal support payments for the first three years you make the payments. This is to make sure that you’re not disguising the spousal support payments as property distribution or something else related to your divorce.

A divorce attorney understands all the ins and outs of tax issues relating to divorce and can help you understand the issues during the spousal support hearings and afterwards, after you begin to make the payments.


It’s not unusual to fall behind when it comes to spousal support payments. This can be caused by various reasons including, job loss, being unable to get a job, or just negligence. If you’re receiving the payments, your whole life can be put in disarray and have a damaging effect on it. Here are some suggestions if your ex-spouse falls behind on spousal support payments of fails to make them.


If you’re court-ordered alimony payments aren’t being received, attempt to discover the reason. See if your ex lost their job recently. Perhaps they were injured and unable to work. If these are the reasons, try to see if the two of you can work out a plan that will make up the lost payments as well as future payments. An attorney can provide an unbiased opinion when it comes to situations like this, and will also provide any legal proof in case you need to take your unpaying ex to court.


If your ex can make spousal payments, has a job, has no injuries, and just doesn’t want to pay the court-ordered alimony payments, then you need the legal help of a divorce attorney. A motion will have to be filed in court requesting that a judge order your spouse to pay the past-due alimony payments. The motion also includes the agreement requiring them to keep current on future alimony payments. You should work with a family law attorney experienced in these matters who can draft a legal motion regarding this. The attorney will also be able to serve in court as your representative.


There are a number of punishments and fines the court can order for delinquent spouses. The laws governing delinquent spousal payments include various consequences that are different from one state to another, but they generally include:

  • Contempt charges for the spouse, including fines and jail time.
  • Withholding the spouse’s income. This requires the delinquent spouse’s employer to withhold the spousal support payment amount their paycheck. Then the money is then sent directly to the spouse who is supposed to receive it.
  • Writ of Execution, which is when the judge gives a portion of the bank accounts or other assets of the delinquent spouse to the spouse who is supposed to be receiving alimony.
  • If the amount of delinquent alimony is substantial, you may be able to request that the court issue a money judgment against the spouse for the whole amount owed, including interest.

Contacting a family law attorney will help you to file legal actions to enforce the payment of alimony and to make sure you receive the spousal support owed to you.

There are various things to be taken into consideration during divorce and spousal support decision. A skilled and qualified family law attorney can assist you to make sure you receive a fair case. For advice on divorce and spousal support issues you need an expert law firm


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