Featured News 2018 The Differences Between Temporary & Permanent Alimony

The Differences Between Temporary & Permanent Alimony

Divorce cases almost always include a discussion of alimony, or spousal support. Alimony as a legal concept has been around for thousands of years, and it's based on a simple idea—the vulnerable spouse deserves support from the wealthier spouse. A form of alimony was written in Hammurabi's Code—the oldest legal document in history. Today, alimony takes the form of regular payment from one spouse to the other.

Some couples outline alimony agreements before they get married in a prenuptial agreement, but others wait until their divorce to sort out these details. Spousal support differs from child support in that it concerned with helping ex-spouses maintain the lifestyles they could afford while married. By ensuring financial stability for both spouses, anyone is empowered to seek a divorce without fear of repercussions. A judge determines the value of alimony payments and the duration of those payments due to the nature of the couple's marriage.

What Temporary & Permanent Alimony Are For

The goal of alimony—temporary or permanent—is to maintain economic independence.

Temporary alimony is spousal support paid during the divorce proceedings. Courts usually issue temporary alimony orders to ensure that the lower-earning spouse is able to support themselves while filing for divorce. Permanent alimony is spousal support paid in perpetuity after the divorce is final. Ideally, permanent alimony will be paid until the spouse is able to financially support themselves—courts will sometimes put time limits on permanent alimony, often when the marriage lasted less than 10 years. The terms of temporary alimony may not necessarily be the terms of your permanent alimony agreement. However, once the divorce is final, you'll need to file a formal request for modification if you want to increase or reduce alimony payments.

Permanent alimony only automatically ends under the following conditions:
  • When either spouse dies
  • When the lower-earning spouse remarries
  • When the lower-earning spouse moves in with a significant other

Otherwise, any change in the alimony agreement will need to be filed by a family law attorney in a formal modification hearing.

The Importance of Having a Good Divorce Lawyer

Both spouses are required to disclose their financial assets and liabilities during the divorce—the courts will use these documents to determine the need for permanent alimony. The court will also use both spouses' age, health, spousal contribution to the other's career, and future employment prospects to determine if permanent alimony is warranted (and how much).

What may seem like black-and-white facts to you need to be argued formally in court. Making the court aware of health issues, employment obstacles, or other non-economic considerations could completely change the shape of your post-divorce life. More importantly, investigation of your spouse's finances (and whether or not spousal support is necessary) is vital to a fair and equitable divorce. Spouses may attempt to hide their financial holdings to unfairly reduce or increase alimony payments.

Additionally, the ability to pay alimony can fluctuate depending on the ex-spouses' circumstances. If the paying spouse loses his or her job or retires, the payment may decrease. If you want to make a case to increase or reduce alimony during or after your divorce, talk to your family law attorney to determine the plan that is right for you.

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