Alimony, also sometimes referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is as old as the law. Law records found in the code of Hammurabi and dating back to 1780 B.C. states the man was obligated to return the dowry, grant his ex-wife custody of any children from the marriage, and give her an allowance to sustain her and the children until they were grown. If the couple did not have children, the man was obligated to return the dowry and pay his wife the equivalent of a bride price. If the wife had violated any number of traditions, the husband could be entitled to keep the dowry and children or even relegate his ex-wife to slavery. Except for the dowry, the bride price, and slavery parts, alimony laws in a places like Tampa, St. Petersburg, and Clearwater are really pretty similar to what they were almost four thousand years ago. In a modern society, though, should a spouse be ordered to keep the other?
In Florida, a civilized society where respect for law generally rules, the laws of society govern the sacred institution of marriage as a binding legal contract between two consenting parties. There are extenuating factors that may have an effect on the answer to the question of whether or not a spouse should be ordered by law to keep the other spouse in the form of alimony payments after the contract of marriage has been judged to be over. Some of these extenuating factors are:
- Length of the marriage – Generally alimony lasts for a term or period that will be longer if the marriage lasted longer. A marriage of over ten years in many states is often a candidate for permanent alimony.
- Time separated while still married – In some states, separation is a triggering event, recognized as the end of the term of the marriage, but other states may not recognize legal separation.
- Age of the parties at the time of the divorce – Generally, more youthful spouses are considered to be more able to ‘get on’ with their lives, and therefore thought to require shorter periods of support.
- Relative income of the parties – In states that recognize a ‘right’ of the spouses to live “according to the means they have become accustomed,” alimony attempts to adjust the incomes of the spouses so that they are able to approximate, as best possible, their prior lifestyle. This tends to equalize strongly post-divorce income, heavily penalizing the higher-earning spouse.
- Future financial prospects of the parties – A spouse who is going to realize significant income in the future is likely to have to pay higher alimony than one who is not.
- Prenuptial agreement – The content of a prenuptial agreement can vary widely, but commonly includes provisions for the division of property should the couple divorce and any rights to alimony during or after the dissolution of marriage.
- Health of the parties – Poor health goes towards need, and potentially an inability to support for oneself. The courts do not want to leave one party indigent.
- Fault in marital breakdown – In states where fault is recognized, fault can significantly affect alimony, increasing, reducing or even nullifying it. Many states are “no-fault” states, where one does not have to show fault to get divorced. No-fault divorce spares the spouses the acrimony of the ‘fault’ processes, and closes the eyes of the court to any and all improper spousal behavior.
Each state has its own set of laws reflecting the will of the society it represents. Whether or not a spouse should be ordered to keep or support the other is a legal argument, not a moral one, that will be determined within the jurisdiction of the state you and your spouse reside. If you are faced with the dilemma of having to decide what your legal rights are when it comes to having to keep or support your spouse, you can do something about it right now by contacting us and we will put you in touch with a divorce attorney in your area who is an expert on legal matters involving alimony or any questions you may have concerning divorce.
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