Understanding the differences between alimony vs spousal support is not always easy. Many people use the terms interchangeably without recognizing that they may represent different outcomes after a divorce. And the emotional upheaval that often accompanies a divorce can cloud a person’s ability to fully grasp the role that each can play in their divorce. Below is an overview of alimony and spousal support and a look at the key differences and misconceptions that exist.
What exactly is alimony?
Simply defined, alimony is a payment made by an individual to his or her former spouse following a divorce. Law.com defines alimony as the “support paid by one ex-spouse to the other as ordered by a court in a divorce (dissolution) case.” Not every former spouse is entitled to alimony, and the amount of alimony to be paid is determined by Florida state laws and the courts.
Alimony is a term that originated in the English courts during the 1600s during a time when divorce was forbidden. The only option married couples had centuries ago was to seek a legal separation that allowed a husband and wife to live apart. When this occurred, husbands were required to continue to financially support their wives as they were still legally married.
What is spousal support?
Spousal support is a more modern legal term that refers to an individual’s obligation to financially support his or her ex-spouse following a divorce or separation. The purpose of spousal support is to mitigate the damaging financial impact that a divorce can have on a lower-wage-earning spouse. Ultimately, spousal support helps spouses maintain a standard of living that is similar to the standard of living they experienced before their marriage was dissolved.
How are alimony and spousal support similar to each other?
When considering alimony vs spousal support, it is helpful to be aware of the commonalities between the two terms. These commonalities play a primary role in the tendency for people to use the two phrases interchangeably. Here are three key similarities between spousal support and alimony:
- Both refer to payments made by one spouse to another after a divorce
- Both are based upon a couple’s assets and liabilities
- Both are designed to alleviate the financial stress of a financially dependent after a divorce
Because the terms are often used interchangeably in Florida, the best course of action to choose is to request clarification from a skilled divorce lawyer or another trained legal professional.
What are some common misconceptions about alimony and spousal support?
Mistaken beliefs about alimony and spousal support can serve as barriers for people who face the prospect of divorce. Even individuals who understand the differences between the two terms are prone to misguided notions about how they are awarded. Here are three of the most common misconceptions that exist regarding alimony and child support:
1) Alimony and spousal support are only awarded to wives
“A recent American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) survey found that more than four in 10 lawyers (45%) had seen an increase over the past three years in women being on the hook for alimony, aka spousal support or maintenance. Meanwhile, 54% said they’d seen a rise in mothers paying child support.” – Meera Jagannathan, MarketWatch
Despite the fact that 40% of households are now headed by women, many people continue to hold the outdated belief that alimony and spousal support are only awarded to wives. Research by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML) clearly disputes this notion, noting a significant rise in the number of women who pay alimony and provide spousal support.
2) Alimony and spousal support are permanent
Some people assume that alimony payments must be made on a permanent basis. This is not the case, as alimony is frequently awarded for a short, pre-defined amount of time. For example, payments may cease when the receiving spouse obtains gainful employment and can support themselves without assistance. Spousal support continues unless it is modified but generally ends if the recipient remarries or if either spouse dies.
3) Recipients have to pay taxes on alimony
“If your divorce is finalized as from January 1, 2019, in Florida, and you have to pay alimony, it will not be tax-deductible. On the other hand, if you get alimony, you will not have to pay tax on it.” – Katherine Bishop, Attorney at Law Magazine
In many states, alimony recipients must pay taxes on payments received while payers of alimony are able to deduct payments when filing their taxes. But many residents are unaware of the recent changes to Florida alimony rules. If your divorce was finalized on or after January 1, 2019, you are no longer required to pay taxes on alimony received. Likewise, alimony is no longer tax-deductible for you if you are required to make payments.
What should you do if you need guidance regarding alimony or spousal support?
As outlined above, the laws pertaining to spousal support and alimony are complex and continually changing. The single best step to take if you need guidance in these areas is to seek legal representation from an experienced Tampa divorce attorney. Here are just a few of the many ways that a divorce lawyer can help you as you face the prospect of a divorce:
- Communicate with your spouse and their attorney on your behalf
- Help you and your spouse arrive at an agreement faster without compromising fairness
- Make sure that required documents are completed properly and in a timely fashion
- Ensure that you receive your fair share of assets at stake during your divorce
- Provide the support you need as you move forward with your divorce
Contact Florida Law Advisers, P.A. for Expertise with Alimony and Spousal Support
Navigating the rocky road of divorce is rarely easy or pleasant. However, the accomplished attorneys with Florida Law Advisers will work tirelessly to help you receive a fair divorce settlement. They will serve as your advocate throughout your divorce proceedings and strive to ensure that you receive your fair share of property and other key assets linked to your marriage.
We invite you to contact us at Florida Law Advisers today for a complimentary consultation with one of our experienced divorce lawyers. In addition to helping you understand how alimony and spousal support may affect you, we will provide the support you need to handle other issues that may arise as divorce proceedings unfold. We look forward to serving as your trusted legal representative during this difficult time.