Answers to Your Top 9 Alimony Questions
Updated: Jan 15
One of the biggest concerns people have when they’re facing a divorce is how their standard of living will change—and whether they’ll need to pay or will receive alimony.
We’ve put together a list of the nine most frequently asked questions about alimony and our answers. Of course, each couple’s case is unique and your particular circumstances will determine the exact path your process will take. That’s where the attorney you ultimately choose to represent you can get more specific.
1. “How do I get alimony after my divorce?”
You can request it as part of your divorce proceeding. If you and your spouse agree on an alimony payment, you can ask the judge to make it part of the court order. If not, the judge will decide whether you’re entitled to receive alimony. Tip: You can’t request alimony after your case is over, so talk with your attorney about your best way forward.
2. “Can I get my alimony judgment changed after the divorce?”
If there’s been a change in your individual circumstances, the court may order a change. For example, the judge may modify an award if the spouse paying alimony experienced a situation that impacts his or her ability to pay. If you’re receiving alimony payments and there’s been a change in your needs, that could also warrant a modification.
3. “How long can I receive alimony?”
If you and your spouse can agree on the length of your alimony agreement, the judge will include that in your court order. If you can’t, the judge will decide what’s best for your individual situation. For example, limited duration alimony will last for a certain amount of time, for example, to give the receiving spouse a chance to get training to earn a job to support himself or herself. Absent extenuating circumstances, limited duration alimony cannot last any longer than the total years of your marriage. It’s common in many settlement agreements for alimony to last about half of the total duration of your marriage, but again, that length is subject to negotiation. There’s also permanent alimony, called open durational alimony, which can last until either spouse dies or the court deems alimony is no longer appropriate in your case. Typically, in order to qualify for open durational alimony, you need to have been married for 20 years or longer.
4. “What if my ex wants me to pay alimony - and I don’t think they need my financial support?”
When you and your ex can’t agree on alimony, the judge will decide whether an alimony award should be made, for how much, and for how long a duration.
5. “I’m a guy. Can I ask my ex for alimony?”
Yes. Gender is irrelevant when requesting alimony.
6. “Can we settle an alimony payment outside of court?”
Absolutely! You can agree to any alimony arrangement that the two of you believe to be fair and reasonable. However, you must include that agreement in your divorce order from the court, or risk your ex stopping payments whenever he or she wants.
7. “What if my ex is behind in their court-ordered alimony payments?”
You can file a motion to enforce the order and even to have support paid through wage garnishment. Consult with your attorney about the best way to proceed.
8. “How are alimony payments calculated?”
This is different from child support, where there are clear guidelines for determining the payment. There’s no alimony calculator. Each state has different laws governing spousal support.
In New Jersey, when a judge determines the amount and duration of an alimony award you may have to pay, he or she will look at a bunch of factors, including:
The requesting spouse’s actual needs and the other’s ability to pay the length of the marriage each person’s age and physical and emotional health
Each person’s income, earning capacity, education, and ability to be employed the standard of living during the marriage
How much time and money it would take for the dependent spouse to support themselves each party’s financial or non-financial contributions to the marriage.
9. “Are my alimony payments tax-deductible?”
Not anymore on your federal income taxes, provided you are newly divorced or will be. Previously, if you paid alimony, you could claim the payment as a deduction on your federal income tax, while your former spouse had to report the payment as income.
However, under the new tax law for divorces settled after December 31, 2018, alimony is no
longer tax deductible to the payor or taxed as income to the recipient on your federal returns (state laws vary).
If your alimony agreement settled before 2019, the old tax laws still apply. If you’re paying alimony, you’ll still be able to deduct your payment, and the alimony recipient must include it in her income statement.
Here’s the rub, though: If you want to change or modify the alimony you’re already paying, or your ex-spouse files an application to modify it, the new tax laws may affect you.
Your modified alimony agreement might be treated as a divorce settled after January 1, 2019.
As the payor, you won’t be able to deduct the alimony payment from your taxable income, and the recipient won’t be required to declare the payment as income or pay taxes on it.
However, if you return to court to modify an alimony agreement, you may be able to still treat it as tax deductible if both parties agree or the judge orders it.
We always advise consulting with an attorney about your divorce agreement, including alimony and child support.
If you need help with a family law matter, our attorneys at Smedley Law Group can provide you with the professional advice you need to make an educated decision. Schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today.