One common issue in dissolution of marriage or divorce proceedings is
alimony. Alimony is awarded on a case by case basis and takes into account many
factors, including the length of the marriage, education of the parties,
educational sacrifices of the parties, and age/employability of the parties.
There are some common misconceptions regarding alimony however, including
Men always pay alimony. While often in the past the husband has been the party required to pay
alimony, this is not always the case anymore as more and more women become
the primary breadwinners. The purpose of alimony is to assist one party
in transitioning from married to single life or to allow one party to
continue to sustain themselves after the marriage has ended.
Alimony is awarded in every case. While the party that has to pay alimony generally feels wronged, as he
or she is having to give the other party a portion of his or her income,
the purpose is so that that other party (who has relied on the paying
party throughout the marriage) has the ability to survive. A common misconception
regarding alimony is that it is awarded often, when this is simply not
the case, especially when it is more common to have both parties working
to support the household now rather than one party working while the other
party cares for the home.
Alimony lasts forever. Alimony does not have to be permanent, and in fact is often only awarded
for a short term or durational period of time. Bridge the gap alimony
for instance, is awarded to help one party transition from married life
to single life and rehabilitative alimony is awarded to aid one party
in retraining or rehabilitating his or herself in order to reenter the
job market. Durational alimony may also be awarded, which is for a set
period of time and may or may not be modifiable, but again assists a person
transitioning from married to single life.
Alimony cannot be changed. Alimony is modifiable unless it is specifically labeled as non-modifiable
at the time of the
dissolution of marriage. An unanticipated, involuntary change in circumstances, such as the paying
party being laid off or the recipient obtaining an increase in income,
may result in a modification of alimony.
A new spouse's income will count toward payor's income and increase
alimony obligation. A new spouse's income DOES NOT count toward the alimony obligation
of a payor. When a party files to modify alimony, he or she must provide
a financial affidavit which includes his or her income and expenses only
and does not provide for including the income of a new spouse as the new
spouse does not have an obligation to support the previous spouse. Other
than the extent to which a new spouse contributes to a payor's current
expenses, the new spouse's income is not included when calculating alimony.