Understanding Alimony: What You Need to Know Post-Divorce

One of the biggest concerns for a couple going through a divorce is financial stability following their separation. Alimony is an important aspect of divorce proceedings that can have a significant impact on the financial future of both spouses.

Whether you are the one seeking alimony or the one paying it, it is important to understand how alimony works following a divorce. Understanding how this legal arrangement works can help you make informed decisions during the divorce proceedings and know what to expect post-divorce.

If you have questions about alimony payments, contact Brown Family Law today. Call us 24/7 at 801-685-9999 to schedule a no-obligation legal consultation. 

What Is Alimony?

Sometimes called spousal support or maintenance, alimony is a legal obligation that one spouse must provide financial support to the other spouse following a divorce. The payment of alimony is court-ordered. It is separate from the division of marital property and child support payments.

Alimony is not automatically awarded in all situations. Judges award alimony on a case-by-case basis. Typically, it is awarded when one spouse has a significantly higher income or earning potential than the other.

One of the main purposes of alimony is to help the lower-earning spouse maintain the same standard of living he or she had during the marriage. Generally, people asking for alimony must prove that they need financial help. They must then show the court that the other spouse is able to provide financial support.

How Long Is Alimony Paid Post-Divorce?

Typically, the duration of the alimony payments will depend on the type of alimony awarded by the judge. The type of alimony awarded will depend on various factors. This includes the length of the marriage, the earning capacity of each spouse, and the financial needs of the receiving spouse.

The following are some different types of spousal support:

  • Temporary alimony: A judge may order temporary alimony to be paid out while the divorce proceedings are ongoing. Temporary spousal support will usually be terminated once the divorce is finalized and a new alimony agreement has been reached.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: These types of spousal support payments are sometimes awarded during a transitional period while the lower-earning spouse is going to school or receiving training that will increase his or her income.
  • Permanent alimony: The court awards this type of alimony when one spouse cannot reasonably be expected to be financially independent due to age, disability, or other factors. Permanent alimony will continue indefinitely or until certain conditions are met. This could include remarriage or death of the supported spouse.
  • Lump-sum alimony: This is a one-time payment made from one spouse to the other. Generally, a lump-sum alimony payment method is used if the paying spouse has a large amount of liquid assets or property that can be used to give financial support to the receiving spouse.

Increases or Decreases in Alimony After a Divorce

Unlike child support, which has cost-of-living increases, an alimony order usually remains the same over the passing years. Even if the paying spouse has a significant increase in income, the dependent spouse will not usually receive higher spousal support payments.

There are some circumstances where a judge may change an alimony determination post-divorce. A court may modify alimony payments if the ability of the paying spouse to make alimony payments has changed. This may include the loss of a job or the spouse becoming disabled.

The party requesting the change of alimony must file a motion for the change and return to court. The paying spouse must prove to a judge his or her inability to meet spousal support obligations.

What If Your Spouse Is Behind in Alimony Payments?

Some spouses refuse to make alimony payments because they resent the fact that they must continue to support an ex-spouse after a divorce. If your ex-spouse is not paying alimony as ordered by the court, you can file a motion for contempt and ask the court to take steps to enforce the order.

At the hearing, the judge will hear evidence about why your ex-spouse should be held in contempt of court. If the judge agrees with you, your ex may be ordered to pay fines or serve time in jail.

Do You Need a Family Law Attorney to Collect Overdue Alimony Payments?

It is possible for you to file a motion on your own to ask for the court’s help to collect alimony. However, it is likely in your best interests to seek the help of an experienced family law attorney.

One situation when a lawyer can be helpful is if you are unable to locate your ex-spouse and serve him or her with a motion. Additionally, a lawyer can help you file the necessary paperwork and represent you in court.

Important documents that a divorce lawyer can help you file include:

  • Paperwork for income withholding
  • Motion for contempt of court
  • Writ of execution
  • Additional motions for enforcement of payment

The filing of motions can be time-consuming and intimidating. For your case to be successful, everything must be filed properly and by the required deadlines. When you have a lawyer representing you, he or she will handle every step of this legal process to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Can You Request Alimony After a Divorce Is Finalized?

Generally, the request for alimony must be made during divorce proceedings. However, there are some exceptions to this rule, depending on the jurisdiction where your divorce was filed.

Often, requests for alimony changes must be supported by a new and unforeseen change in a person’s life. Perhaps you were financially stable during the divorce process, but you had a drastic downturn in your financial circumstances later on. If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation following a divorce, it may be possible to request alimony.

Another situation where alimony may be granted post-divorce is if your ex-spouse’s ability to pay has changed since the divorce. For example, he or she was unable to pay alimony at the time of the divorce because of unemployment, but now your ex has a job and stable income.

Are you considering requesting alimony after a divorce, or have you been asked to pay alimony post-divorce? If so, a family law attorney can review your circumstances and help you understand your legal options.

Changes to Alimony Agreements After Retirement

A person who is paying alimony may be able to request a change to a spousal support agreement on the grounds of changed financial circumstances. Typically, when people retire, they no longer receive an income. Instead, they rely on pensions, 401ks, investments, or social security to support themselves.

Depending on the terms of the spousal support agreement, the court may review the paying spouse’s change in circumstances and consider a modification. This may mean lowering or terminating alimony payments.

When recipients of alimony have reached retirement age, they may have their own retirement income. This could affect their need for spousal support and prompt a modification to the alimony agreement.

If you or your ex-spouse are nearing retirement age and have concerns about your spousal support agreement, do not hesitate to reach out to a family law attorney who can advise you on the issue.

Does the Death of Paying Ex-Spouse Terminate Alimony?

The process of going through a divorce can place extreme stress on a person. In fact, scientific studies show that the stress and other factors that come with separation and divorce are associated with an increased risk of early death.

What happens if an ex-spouse dies while still under the order of the courts to pay alimony?

Generally, the death of either the paying party or the supported party terminates an existing spousal support order. An exception is if both parties have otherwise agreed to a different arrangement in writing.

If the paying spouse was behind on alimony payments, the recipient spouse may make a claim to be paid from the deceased life insurance policy or estate.

It is important to contact a divorce lawyer after learning of the death of an ex-spouse. A lawyer can review your case, let you know how your spousal support payments will be affected, and inform you of your legal options.

A Family Law Attorney Can Help You Secure Your Financial Future

Navigating the complexities of alimony in a divorce can be overwhelming. You do not have to face this difficult time alone. The knowledgeable family law attorneys at Brown Family Law are dedicated to helping you understand your legal rights and responsibilities regarding alimony.

Our experienced legal team is here to provide the guidance and support you need to secure a just and fair resolution. Whether you are just beginning the separation process or your divorce is already finalized, we can help answer any questions you have about alimony and the spousal support process.

Brown Family Law can help ensure your financial future is protected. Schedule a consultation today. Call us 24/7 at 801-685-9999 to speak to a live representative.

Published On: February 15th, 2024Categories: Alimony, DivorceComments Off on Understanding Alimony: What You Need to Know Post-Divorce
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About the Author: Marco Brown
Marco C. Brown was named Utah’s Outstanding Family Law Lawyer of the Year in 2015. He graduated with distinction from the University of Nebraska College of Law in 2007 and is currently the managing partner of Brown Family Law, LLC.
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