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 in Mississippi is to offset any unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing a continuing income to a spouse who has a deficit of support after the division of marital property. Many states base their alimony award guidelines on the federal Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act.
To be eligible for alimony, spouses in all states, including Mississippi, 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, alimony awards lack the enforcement power that child support orders have, which include wage garnishment and property liens. Recipient spouses do have the option of returning to court to force payment through a contempt action.
There are three types of alimony in Mississippi: periodic, lump-sum, and rehabilitative. Periodic alimony provides a spouse with a source of income for an indefinite length of time. Periodic alimony terminates upon the remarriage of the receiving spouse or the death of the paying spouse. Periodic alimony may be modified by increasing, decreasing, or terminating the award. Any modification, however, may only be made by the order of a court, not by one of the parties acting alone.
Lump sum alimony is calculated by the court and is usually made in one payment, but it can also be paid on a fixed, periodic basis. It is not usually subject to modification, unless one of the parties has committed fraud. Lump sum alimony becomes an obligation of the estate of the paying spouse in the event of the spouse’s death occurring before payment is completed. In Mississippi, lump sum alimony is intended to equalize the parties financially.
Rehabilitative is the most commonly awarded type of alimony and may include payments for the education necessary for the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. It is not intended to be an equalizer between the spouses. Rather it is meant to help the receiving spouse “get back on their feet again.” This type of alimony may be modified by the court.
The type and amount of alimony awarded depends on a variety of factors. According to lawyers.com, Mississippi law recommends that courts consider the following factors when awarding alimony:
- The spouses' income and expenses
- The spouses' health and earnings
- The spouses' needs, obligations and assets
- The presence of any children
- The spouses' ages
- Standard of living during the marriage
- Any tax consequences
- Any marital fault
- Any wasteful dissipation of assets
- The length of the marriage
In the United States, alimony is treated differently tax wise from child support payments. In Mississippi, alimony is deductible for the person who pays it and taxable income for the person who receives it under the rules of the Internal Revenue Service, while child support is not. For a summary of divorce and alimony law in Mississippi, go to divorcesource.com.