Some Nassachusetts residents can remember the days when a husband was the primary and only wage earner in families. Alimony was created to help divorcing couples cope with the financial disparity between a paid working spouse and an unpaid working-at-home spouse. Some couples still maintain this lifestyle, but an increasing number of families are supported by dual incomes.
Today's spousal support issues still surround financial imbalances. The amount and length of time alimony is paid has changed considerably over time. Individual wages can be disproportionate, even when both spouses work, giving the financial advantage to the wealthier spouse.
Spouses may negotiate alimony agreements without a judge's help. When they can't come to terms, courts step in to help resolve disputes about whether spousal support is appropriate, how long alimony should last and the conditions under which support changes or ends.
Some things judges think about before making alimony decisions include the ages and health statuses of the former spouses, plus the length of time they were married and the lifestyle they shared. One spouse's ability to pay and the other spouse's valid need for support must be established. In recent years, states have pulled away from permanent or long-term alimony awards.
Many courts award alimony for a set period to allow a financially-challenged spouse to pursue an education or training and develop self-supporting job skills. Alimony terms are dictated by state laws, divorce agreements and court orders. Alimony modifications are possible only with a court's permission.
A failure to live up to alimony terms can generate legal problems. A delinquent payer can be held in contempt by the court.
Questions about alimony can be answered by a divorce attorney, including how property negotiations in divorce can limit or erase a need for alimony. Lawyers assist spouses trying to draft alimony agreements and former spouses, who already pay or receive alimony.