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 the following:
- 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 aide 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.