What Is Alimony (Spousal Support)?
Learn more about how courts determine and enforce alimony.
Divorce is the legal ending of a marriage by a court that officially dissolves the bonds of matrimony between a couple in a particular country or state.
To start the process one spouse will typically file for divorce and then both spouses will come to an agreement (with or without the court) that divides any property or responsibilities, including the custody and care of any children.
While there are many circumstances that lead to the dissolution of a marriage, some of the most common are:
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You and your spouse agree on all issues, including property division, child custody, and others.
You and your spouse cannot agree on one or more issues, so the court must decide for you.
The person filing for divorce alleges some wrongdoing, like adultery or extreme cruelty, committed by their spouse.
Instead of placing blame, you cite “irreconcilable differences” or something similar. You and your spouse may have to swear to this in a signed statement or live apart for a specified amount of time (often 12 or 18 months). No-fault divorces are often uncontested.
The following constitute a few the essential divorce papers you will most likely use to start, process, and conclude a dissolution of marriage.
While a divorce is the most common way to end a marriage, it is not the only way. The two most common alternatives are legal separation or a marriage annulment.
Legal separation. You, your spouse, and the courts make many of the same decisions as in a divorce (like dividing assets and responsibilities), but you remain legally married.
Annulment. While a divorce and a marriage annulment both dissolve a marriage, when you obtain an annulment the law treats the marriage differently than when you complete the divorce process. An annulment treats the marriage as though it never existed.
Going through a dissolution of marriage can have significant long term effects both emotionally and financially. A divorce is often expensive and in order to determine how much a divorce costs for your particular circumstances you will need to consider a variety of factors such as where you live, the time it takes to complete your divorce, and the attorney you hire.
You can also use a divorce calculator to get an estimation of your potential costs. While a divorce is difficult enough on its own for both men and women, the impacts on children can be equally difficult and confusing for children.
Alimony--sometimes also referred to as spousal support—is designed to supply the dependent spouse with financial support after a divorce or legal separation. Alimony is different from child support in that it is often calculated by the judge. If your earnings are substantially higher than those of your spouse, you will more than likely be ordered by the court to pay alimony.
Critical to determining the answer to the question 'who gets what?' is whether or not you live in a community property state.
The 9 community property states are:
In these states, nearly all property obtained after a marriage is considered to be owned equally by both spouses. Thus the property acquired after the marriage will be equally split between both you and your spouse.
If you do not live in a community property state then a court will decide how to best divide property and assets between you and your spouse in the fairest (though not always perfectly equal) possible manner.
If you need more legal help, you may want to hire a divorce lawyer to help you file or review your paperwork.