Area of Law:
In the event of a divorce, if either spouse does not have a separate estate, or if a spouse's assets are not sufficient to offer a means of support, a judge might order alimony, which is also known as spousal support. Alimony is usually a monthly financial allowance paid by one spouse to another. The purpose of alimony is to offset any unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing a continual source of income to the non-wage earning or lower-wage earning spouse. In Arkansas, alimony is awarded based on the financial situation of both spouses.
To be eligible for alimony, spouses in all states must have been legally married. Alimony is usually based on a settlement agreement made between the spouses or the discretion of a judge. In most states, including Arkansas, alimony awards lack the enforcement power that child support orders have, which include wage garnishment and property liens. Recipient spouses do, however, have the option of returning to court to force payment through a contempt action.
There are four types of alimony: lump-sum, temporary, rehabilitative, and permanent. Lump sum alimony is calculated by the court and is usually made in one payment.
Temporary alimony may be paid for a specific amount of time, usually one or two years, to help one partner become financially independent and “get back on their feet.”
Rehabilitative is the most commonly awarded alimony and may include payments for the education necessary for the recipient spouse to become self-sufficient.
Permanent alimony is paid regularly for an indefinite period of time or until the payee petitions the court to modify or discontinue the payments.
In most states, remarriage of the recipient spouse will terminate alimony, but termination upon the payer's death is not necessarily automatic. In cases in which the recipient spouse is unlikely to obtain gainful employment because of age or health considerations, the court may order that further support be provided from the payer's estate or life insurance proceeds.
In Arkansas, alimony is typically only ordered for a short length of time. It may be in the form of a lump sum payment of money or a property award. Alimony payments automatically cease upon the remarriage of the recipient, the establishment of a relationship that produced a child, or a relationship that is considered the equivalent of a remarriage.
The type and amount of alimony awarded depends on a variety of factors. Many states, including Arkansas, base their alimony award guidelines on the federal Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, which recommends that courts consider the following factors when awarding alimony:
- The age, physical condition, emotional state, and financial condition of the former spouses
- The length of time the recipient would need for education or training to become self-sufficient
- The couple's standard of living during the marriage
- The length of the marriage
- The ability of the payer spouse to support the recipient and still support himself or herself
In Arkansas, the needs of the spouse and the ability of the other spouse to pay are the main factors that the court considers when awarding alimony. For a complete discussion of divorce law in Arkansas, go to lawyers.com.