Civil court is where people go to seek financial justice. One person sues another over an injury, and the court decides if the evidence warrants a payout to the injured party.
Family court is where people go to deal with domestic legal concerns. It takes care of everything from an adoption to a divorce.
All divorces cover financial concerns, and the court can make these decisions for spouses. Sometimes, however, the family court can behave more like a civil court. It can view one spouse as a victim and order the other to make financial restitution.
Often, this restitution comes through alimony payments.
How Alimony Traditionally Works
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a court-ordered payment made by one spouse to the other after a divorce or separation. The purpose of alimony is to help the lower-earning spouse maintain their standard of living and cover their expenses while they adjust to life on their own.
The amount and duration of alimony payments are determined by the court based on several factors, including:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and health of each spouse
- The standard of living during the marriage
- The income and earning potential of each spouse
- Any contributions made by one spouse to the education or career advancement of the other
Spouses normally pay over a set period of time, such as five years. In some cases, alimony may be paid in a lump sum. Sometimes, alimony continues until certain conditions are met, such as remarriage or death.
Alimony laws vary by state, and not all divorces will result in an alimony award. Additionally, depending on how the payments are structured, there may be tax implications for both the paying and receiving spouse.
4 Ways Alimony Can Be a Form of Compensation
Normally, the court wants to use the criteria outlined above to award alimony. If a judge, however, sees one spouse as a victim, they can order the other to pay more in alimony.
Here are some examples.
In some states, evidence of domestic violence can be used to justify a deviation from the standard spousal support formula. For example, physical or emotional abuse could affect a spouse's earning capacity.
Sometimes, it is discovered that one spouse has been hiding assets. This is an attempt to reduce the money or property they will lose in a divorce. If caught, this spouse can suffer serious consequences. The court may impose penalties for failing to disclose all relevant financial information or even charge them with perjury if they lied under oath.
Moreover, a guilty spouse could be forced to pay much more in alimony or other compensatory damages.
Wasteful dissipation is when one spouse intentionally wastes marital assets. They do this so there is little leftover in the divorce.
If a court determines that one spouse has wasted marital assets, it may reduce their entitlement to receive alimony payments, or it could increase their obligation to pay them.
All money earned in the marriage is considered marital property. When either spouse purchases something, the other person immediately becomes a co-owner of that asset.
If a spouse hides spending on gambling, substance addiction, or a secret affair, the court may consider this a form of wasteful dissipation. As outlined above, this act can have a direct impact on alimony payments.
Ford & Friedman is here to help both spouses achieve a fair, reasonable spousal support agreement. You can contact us by calling (702) 904-9898 or filling out our online contact form.