Alimony, also known as “spousal support” or “spousal support,” generally provides financial support to a spouse to help bridge the income gap until the one who was dependent on their partner’s income can start a new life after the divorce. Each state has its own laws determining the amount of spousal support and the time the payer is obligated to support the other.
The types of alimony differ and the requirements to claim an ex-spousal payment are different in each state. Although judges in some states can still award permanent child support, this has become rarer. The various aspects of alimony structures in the United States and the discretion that judges have when determining which state an ex-spouse receives the most alimony payments make it almost impossible to tell.
When and why is maintenance granted?
Judges will consider many factors when calculating how much one spouse should pay the other after the divorce. Perhaps the separation of assets leaves both spouses with sufficient income so that no alimony has to be awarded.
A judge may consider the state’s guidelines for awarding spousal support, which is not the same as child support. They will also look at the length of the marriage, generally there is a minimum length of time a couple must have been married, or in the few states that still recognize common law marriage that the couple has been together.
In addition, the judge will consider the age, health of both parties, and the ability of the spouse applying for financial assistance to re-enter the job market to build a post-divorce career. The ex-spouse’s ability to pay is also factored into the equation, along with the amount of child support they are responsible for depending on whether or not they are the custodial parent.
Spousal support payments may be modified in the future if a spouse’s circumstances change materially, unless the settlement agreement expressly provides that it is non-modifiable. Visit MaritalLaws.com for a maintenance calculator and state-by-state information.
Child support payments made since 2019 are neither taxed nor tax deductible
In 2018, the Tax Code made significant changes to how alimony payments are treated for both the dependent spouse and dependent spouse for federal tax purposes. Under the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act 2017, alimony paid in a divorce settlement after December 31, 2018 is not tax deductible for the paying spouse, nor is it taxable income for the receiving spouse.
However, the exemption from tax withholding and tax liability does not apply to maintenance agreements established before January 1, 2019. Even if the spousal support agreement is changed after that date. Unlike other tax changes in the legislation, the maintenance provisions were made permanent.
Child support payments are becoming increasingly rare
As more marriages become dual-earners, even in states that allow permanent alimony, judges are less likely to award it for such a long period of time. There are even efforts to abolish indefinite spousal maintenance. Recently, Florida’s lower chamber passed legislation to abolish permanent child support payments, but it was awaiting the governor’s signature at the time of this writing.
Perpetual spousal support can be granted in situations involving long-term marriages, or when a spouse is too old to potentially return to the labor market to have financial stability, or when a disability or health issue has arisen that prevents them from doing so prevents them from taking care of themselves in the future. States that may still provide ongoing child support include Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia.
However, as with the proposed Florida law revision, the assisting spouse may request that alimony payments cease upon retirement in Connecticut and Vermont. Otherwise, they may continue until the death of the recipient or payer, even then the payer’s estate may continue to send money to the dependent spouse.