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Alimony in Court Overview

Alimony in Court Overview

Along with all other issues surrounding divorce, alimony arrangements are made in a family court. However, unlike child support or visitation laws, many alimony policies are set by the court itself. While there are some alimony laws in every state, the court has the final discretion in awarding or denying alimony. The court may also set the amount and the time that the alimony payments will last. As a result, the outcome of an alimony case can be very surprising or unexpected. It is nearly impossible to be sure if a spouse will receive alimony or not, although some spouses are much more likely to get alimony then others.

Legally, both spouses may have alimony difficulties, even if one is suing for it and one is trying to prevent paying it. A spouse who is seeking alimony is never automatically entitled to it. The requirements that must be met for a spouse to be entitled are extensive. The judge has to examine every aspect of the marriage. This includes who made the most money, how long the couple was married and the earning potential of each spouse. Since it is up to the court to decide whether or not a spouse is entitled to alimony, the court has to interpret this evidence for themselves. Therefore, each alimony case will not have the same outcome. Either spouse may having difficulties proving their side of the story. The burden of proof that usually exists in many court cases tend to fall on both parties. Each spouse can argue their side but in the end, the court will have to decide what to do if the couple cannot agree.

Decision Issuance:

A court will issue an alimony decision either during or at the end of divorce proceedings. The final decision will be based on several factors, including the age and health of the divorcees, and the length of marriage. Some divorces can take a long time because of arguments over settlements, including alimony. When a couple cannot come to mutual agreement about an alimony settlement, the decision is issued by the court. Once the decision is issued, it becomes a court order and either spouse can be held in contempt for not following the rules of the alimony agreement. If either spouse seeks a modification of the order, they must file a motion to have the case reopened and reexamined.

Finality of Decision:
An alimony agreement is never final. As circumstances change for each couple, especially if children are involved, an agreement can be modified in court. Sometimes these modifications are mutual decisions. Many times they are not. It is up to the court to review any evidence that can be presented that proves that a change in the amount is necessary. Either spouse can request a change of alimony payments, whether they are paying it or receiving it. Although the courts are reluctant to tamper with an established alimony arrangement, they will change one if they feel the request is reasonable and necessary.

Issue of Remarriage:
If the recipient remarries, it is almost definite that the spouse paying alimony can request that the payments be nullified. Though they still have to take the legal steps of filing a motion in family court, the judge will almost always allow the alimony payments to stop. Alimony payments do not have anything to do with child support payments. Those must continue until the child is of legal age in the state to stop receiving payment, usually 18 to 21 years old. The court decides that the ex-spouse receiving alimony payments has additional financial help from their new spouse. If the spouse paying alimony remarries, it is very rare that they will be allowed to have their payments lowered. The court reasons that the recipient still has the same financial needs, whether the paying spouse has new financial responsibilities. At times, the paying spouse can try to get payments lowered due to a change in circumstances but the court will almost always be reluctant to approve the motion.

Hiring an Attorney:
Some divorce cases can be cut and dried. A young couple with no property or children, as well as a large future earning potential may be able to handle their own divorce without an attorney. In cases where there is alimony, property division or child visitation to deal with, however, many people will decide to hire an attorney. Hiring a lawyer who specializes in family court cases is preferable. One should consult with several lawyers until they finding one they feel comfortable with. When having a consultation with a family lawyer, an individual should question them about their experience and success rate. Another important question to ask is what they think possibility of receiving or paying alimony would be. A lawyer can never give a definite answer on that, considering that fact that alimony decisions are left up tot the courts. The lawyer can estimate what they think is likely to happen, based on previous cases and alimony guidelines that courts follow.

The Importance of Representation:

Some divorces can be amicable and simple. An individual that has not been married for a long time, has no children, few assets and similar earning potential as their spouse, is unlikely to be awarded alimony. However, the more things that are at stake, the more important it is to have a lawyer overseeing the case. This is especially true if there is resentment and hostility in the relationship. Some people will fight hard to prevent their spouse from getting anything while another spouse will try as hard as they can to get every penny from their spouse in an alimony settlement. A lawyer will have a better understanding of the complicated alimony issues and laws. The lawyer can ensure that their client gets the best arrangement possible from the courts.