When a Houston criminal defense attorney successfully secures a divorce for any married couple, one of the former spouses receives spousal support or alimony from the court. The type of award is based on the agreement between the couple or the court’s verdict. This blog discusses the basics of spousal support and alimony.
Purpose of Alimony
Alimony is awarded to minimize the unfair economic effects (if any) following a divorce by supplying a steady income to one of the former spouses who does not earn or earns a little. Alimony is justified by citing the reason that one spouse may have given up his career to support his/her family and needs sometime to learn skill to be self-dependent. Another likely purpose is to help a spouse maintain the standard of living the couples used to enjoy during their married life.
Determination of the Amount for Alimony
The court applies broader discretion to determine if to award alimony and if yes, how much the amount will be and how long it will be provided. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act – the spousal support stature in many states is based on it – suggests that the court takes into account some important factors to decide the amount of the alimony award. These factors are as follows:
- Age, physical as well as financial condition and emotional state of the former spouse
- The standard of living the couple used to enjoy during their marriage
- The amount of time the spouse needs for education or training to be self-dependent
- The payer spouse’s ability to support his/her ex-spouse while supporting himself/herself
- The duration of their marriage
It is hard to estimate the award and even harder to guess if the spouse will comply with the court order for support. Alimony enforcement is not like child-support enforcement. However, the recipient may visit court to force payment through a contempt proceeding. The alimony is awarded only after a court order and the mechanisms to enforce any court order are available to the spouse who receives the alimony.
How Long Alimony is Paid
Alimony is usually awarded for the time length deemed necessary for the recipient to become self-sufficient. That means, alimony is ‘rehabilitative’ in nature. If a divorce decree makes no mention of a termination date for spousal support, the payer must continue with the support until the court orders otherwise. Most awards are terminated as soon as the recipient remarries. Termination is not always automatic upon the payer’s death, especially in the cases where the spouse is not able to get a good job due to health condition or age. In such cases, the court may order that the further support will be continued and provided from the payer’s life insurance proceeds or estate.
Trends in Alimony
In the past, usually a husband and not the wife was the only earning member. That is why, the former husband was ordered to pay alimony to the other party after a divorce. These days, both husband and wife do a decent job in most families. Such change in culture has also brought a change in the spousal support awards.