Table of Contents:
- Alimony Laws in Rhode Island
- Alimony Laws in Illinois
- Alimony Laws in Tennessee
- Alimony Laws in Oklahoma
- Alimony Laws in Texas
- Massachusetts Alimony Laws
Section 15-5-16 of Rhode Island's General Laws enumerates the factors a judge must consider when deciding whether to order alimony. The longer the marriage, the more likely alimony will be awarded, particularly if one spouse left the workforce for a long period of time to care for the home and family. Rhode Island courts consider this to be as much of a contribution to the marriage as income gained from working. Another pivotal factor is whether there are still young children in the home who need one parent's care. Rhode Island courts are not likely to force such a parent into the workforce to support herself, assuming the other spouse has sufficient income to share. In all cases, courts strive to achieve a standard of living comparable to that which existed during the marriage.
Section 15-5-16 of the General Laws also mentions marital conduct, but this issue can be a bit complicated. Alimony cannot be punitive; a spouse can neither be ordered to pay it as punishment for committing adultery nor barred from receiving it because she strayed. Misconduct can impact a court's alimony decision nonetheless, and the General Laws specifically provide for this. Although Rhode Island recognizes both no-fault and fault grounds for divorce, Section 15-5-3.1 states that charges of specific acts of marital misconduct are inadmissible in a divorce proceeding, with some major exceptions. The court can consider allegations when determining alimony or when making custody decisions.
Alimony may last forever in Rhode Island. The state's focus is on awarding it for a sufficient period of time to allow an under-earning spouse to acquire the education or job skills necessary to support herself – usually about three years – or until younger children no longer need that parent's full-time care. After longer marriages, however, this may not be a reasonable expectation. If a spouse has been out of the workforce for 20 years or more, she may never be able to establish a career that would earn an income sufficient for her to maintain the same standard of living that she enjoyed while married. In this case, a court can order alimony for an indefinite period of time. Courts can also order temporary or "pendente lite" alimony to assist an under-earning spouse during the court proceedings.
Modifications and Termination
Rhode Island law provides leeway for a court to change an alimony order post-divorce if critical elements change. A court can modify the alimony terms included in a divorce decree retroactive to the date the change occurred, which can reduce or possibly even eliminate accrued arrears if one spouse has been unable to pay. Changes that might warrant modification include job loss or some other circumstance that might seriously affect the paying spouse's ability to furnish the other with alimony income. Remarriage is another matter entirely. If the receiving spouse remarries, alimony automatically terminates in Rhode Island.
The Illinois court has flexibility when determining whether to award spousal maintenance. The court will consider several factors when deciding whether spousal maintenance is necessary. For example, the court will consider the age and health of the parties, as well as the earning capacity of both spouses. The most significant factor regarding whether you will be eligible to receive spousal maintenance is the length of the marriage. Generally, the longer you were married, the more likely it is that the court will award spousal maintenance.
Rarely, a court in Illinois will award one spouse permanent maintenance. Permanent maintenance lasts indefinitely until one spouse dies. An Illinois court will usually only award permanent maintenance if you were married to your spouse for a significant period of time and a disability or medical condition prevents you from working. The court has the authority to establish factors that will trigger a revaluation of the award of permanent maintenance such as an improvement in your medical condition.
Between the time you file for divorce and when the divorce becomes final, the court may award you temporary spousal maintenance. Temporary maintenance can provide you with support until you determine what assets you will receive following the divorce and whether the court will award child support. In essence, temporary maintenance allows you to maintain your living standard until the divorce becomes final.
The court may also choose to award you rehabilitative or reviewable maintenance. Rehabilitative maintenance is awarded to provide the receiving spouse an opportunity to transition back into the workforce. For example, rehabilitative maintenance may be ordered while you complete an educational program or finish an internship. Similar to rehabilitative maintenance, reviewable maintenance is issued for a specified period of time, like 6 months to a few years; then the court re-evaluates whether the award is still necessary. If you become self-supporting at the end of the defined period, the court has the option to modify or cancel the maintenance award.
Alimony in Futuro
Alimony in futuro, or period alimony, enables an economically disadvantaged spouse to maintain a similar quality of living as when she was married. A judge might award this type of alimony if he determines the spouse cannot reasonably achieve a similar standard of living on her own efforts. This type of alimony usually continues indefinitely or until the awarded spouse remarries. If the recipient does not immediately notify the payer of her new marriage, the court can order repayment of any funds received after the marriage took place.
Rehabilitative alimony allows a spouse to improve his financial situation by providing money for school, job training or anything else that would contribute to this end and improve the chances of independent living. The awarded amount can change due to significant changes in circumstances in the lives of either party. The court will establish an amount and time frame of payout—you can only extend this if you can prove the current payments have not provided significant rehabilitative assistance.
Lump Sum Alimony
Lump sum alimony involves payment of a set amount to balance out inequities in property division. This long-term support helps the disadvantaged spouse maintain a similar quality of life. The court might approve installment payments in certain instances. This can include attorney’s fees. Remarriage does not terminate an agreement of lump sum alimony.
Transitional alimony helps a spouse adjust to her new economic standing. The court recognizes the spouse has economic disadvantage but does not qualify for rehabilitative alimony. The court will establish a set amount and time frame for payment.
Support of Marriage
According to Michie.com, a website listing legal documents for all 50 states, the state of Tennessee supports arrangements in which spouses divide responsibilities in a manner that one parent tends to the household and children while the other takes care of finances. However, it recognizes that this arrangement puts one spouse at an economic disadvantage. The state believes the former has equal rights and dignity and her contribution is of equal importance. Therefore, alimony laws support the disadvantaged spouse in maintaining a similar lifestyle after divorce.
Considerations for Granting Alimony
The court will consider several factors when determining an alimony arrangement. They include, but are not limited to, the length of the marriage, financial obligations, resources and needs of each party, training and education, mental and physical health, standard of living during the marriage, and assets.
The Purpose of the Payments
Although alimony, also called "spousal support," may be traditionally thought of as payments made by the former husband to his former wife after a divorce, it can be awarded to either spouse. Oklahoma state law provides several grounds for divorce, including incompatibility, and judges may order spousal support regardless of the reason the couple desires to end their marriage. Judges have broad discretion in awarding alimony payments when a significant difference exists between the financial health and welfare of the two spouses.
Factors for Awarding Alimony
Oklahoma law provides no specific method for calculating the amount of alimony one spouse owes to another. Unless the divorcing spouses agree to a specific amount on their own, the judge may look at such factors as each person's relative age, health, education, work history and earning capacity. The judge also considers the lifestyle the couple led while married and the length of their marriage. Ultimately, the judge will award alimony whenever one spouse shows a need for support and the other spouse has the ability to pay it.
Making Alimony Payments
If a judge orders alimony payments as part of the divorce decree, Oklahoma law requires her to include a specific total amount of alimony awarded. Once that amount has been paid, spousal support ceases. Oklahoma no longer allows judges to order permanent support payments, although the parties may agree to this between themselves. The ex-spouse required to pay alimony may pay the entire amount in a lump sum, or in monthly installments.
Modifying or Stopping Payments
Oklahoma law provides several ways alimony payments can be stopped or modified before the total amount awarded has been paid. For example, if either party dies, the obligation to pay alimony ends. Likewise, if the former spouse receiving alimony remarries, any obligation to continue paying alimony ceases. Although not automatic, if someone receiving alimony starts living with someone else of the opposite sex, Oklahoma law allows the former spouse paying alimony to petition the court for an order stopping alimony payments. Additionally, former spouses may petition for modification of a spousal support order if their financial circumstances have changed substantially since the judge issued the original order.
Entitlement to Alimony
Alimony laws in Texas set forth specific requirements you must meet to be entitled to receive alimony payments from your spouse. First, you must have been married for at least 10 years; the only exception to this rule is if you can show your spouse was convicted of domestic violence against you. But meeting the marriage duration requirement, or being a victim of domestic violence, is not, by itself, enough to receive alimony. You must then show an inability to maintain employment with an income substantial enough to be self-supporting.
Alimony will also be awarded in Texas if you can establish you have a disability that makes you unable to work and earn a self-supporting income. If you do not have a disability, but care for a child with a disability - that requires substantial care and providing that care prevents you from earning a sufficient income to be self-supporting - you may be entitled to alimony.
Factors Considered by Court
When deciding if you are entitled to alimony, and if so, the appropriate amount, a Texas court will consider several factors to determine an award that fits both spouses' circumstances. The main consideration is the value of assets and income of both parties. The court wants to make sure the alimony award is sufficient to provide for your needs, but also a legal obligation your spouse can meet while still satisfying his own needs.
The court also considers the education and work experience of both parties; your roles during the marriage -- homemaker vs. wage earner; your ability to work; efforts by you to obtain employment; time needed for you to complete education or training necessary to obtain employment; and any marital misconduct. Texas is one of few states that considers marital misconduct, such as abuse or adultery, so if you committed adultery, you may lose your right to seek alimony. And if your spouse committed adultery or domestic violence, he may be required to pay more in alimony.
Amount and Duration
Unlike most states, Texas has set a maximum on the monthly amount and total duration of alimony payments. Legislation passed in 2011 increased the maximum monthly alimony amount to $5,000, or 20 percent of the owing spouse's income. Duration of payments is based on the length of the spouses' marriage. Alimony payments for a marriage lasting between 10 and 20 years are limited to five years. A spouse can receive alimony for up to seven years if the marriage lasted between 20 and 30 years. For marriages of more than 30 years, the maximum duration of alimony is 10 years.
Marital Misconduct and Alimony
Massachusetts is both a no-fault and fault divorce state. To get a no-fault divorce, you need only allege that your marriage is irretrievably broken. The vast majority of divorces are granted on this basis. However, seven fault grounds for divorce exist: cruel and abusive behavior, which is usually in the form of domestic violence; desertion; incarceration in prison; drug or alcohol abuse; neglect; adultery and impotence. Marital misconduct, such as adultery, becomes relevant if it has a serious impact on the finances of the family.
The Alimony Reform Act sets forth a general formula for calculating alimony payments. Generally, payments are limited to the need of the recipient, or 30 to 35 percent of the difference between the gross income of the divorced parties. However, there are no rigid rules -- a Massachusetts judge can consider other factors, such as the age and health of the parties, their occupations and employment prospects after the divorce.
Types of Alimony
Massachusetts classifies alimony into four categories: general term alimony, rehabilitative alimony, reimbursement alimony and transitional alimony. General term alimony is intended to enable the economically dependent spouse to maintain her previous lifestyle, as long as the other party has the ability to pay the necessary amount. Rehabilitative alimony can be granted to improve the earnings prospects of a spouse through further education and training. The Alimony Reform Act caps rehabilitative alimony at five years. Reimbursement alimony repays a spouse who contributed, economically or non-economically, to the other spouse's financial resources. For example, if you worked to put your spouse through medical school. Transitional alimony can be granted to enable you to make the switch from married to single life. For example, you might need to find a job if you weren't previously working.
Duration of Alimony
The Alimony Reform Act sets forth a formula that bases the duration of general term alimony payments on the length of the marriage. For example, if a marriage lasts five years or less, you could get alimony payments for the number of months corresponding to half the length of the marriage. If you are married between 15 and 20 years, you could get alimony for 80 percent of the months corresponding to the duration of the marriage. So if you divorce shortly after 15 years, you could receive alimony for approximately 144 months or 12 years. Lifetime alimony awards are only appropriate for marriages that last more than 20 years. The new law generally terminates alimony when the person making alimony payments retires. Again, these are guidelines and not rigid rules.
After your divorce, if your circumstances significantly change, you can petition the court to modify your alimony award. For example, if you are receiving alimony payments and cash a multimillion dollar lottery ticket, the payor can ask the court to terminate his alimony obligation because of your unexpected windfall. If you are the payor and retire, you can ask the court to reduce, suspend or end the alimony payments you've been making. If the alimony recipient moves in with someone else for three months or more, the court can reduce, suspend or terminate alimony payments to the recipient.