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 continuing income to a non-wage earning or lower-wage earning spouse.
In Oklahoma, alimony may be awarded in the form of real or personal property, or through the payment of money. Monetary payments may be made either in a lump sum or periodically; they are accorded based on what the court deems fair and just. Oklahoma law provides that a spouse who has been abandoned by the other spouse is not liable for their support until the spouse returns, unless the abandonment was justified by misconduct. Spouses who are separated are not liable to support each other unless a legal separation agreement provides for support.
To be eligible for alimony, spouses in all states, including Oklahoma, must have been legally married. Alimony is usually based on a settlement agreement made between the spouses or the discretion of a judge. According to Section §43 134 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the death or remarriage of the recipient spouse terminates all unpaid alimony obligations. The voluntary cohabitation of a former spouse with a member of the opposite sex is a ground for the modification of provisions of a final judgment or alimony order. If voluntary cohabitation is alleged in a motion to modify the payment of support, Oklahoma courts have jurisdiction to either reduce or terminate future support payments, based on the proof of a substantial change in circumstances for either party of the divorce.
The type and amount of alimony awarded depends on a variety of factors. Many states, including Oklahoma, 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 him/herself
In the United States, alimony is treated differently tax wise from child support payments. In Oklahoma, 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. This can make alimony a tax advantage for the person who pays it and has prompted the federal government to create “hurdle tests” to differentiate between alimony, child support, and property settlement.
For a comprehensive review of the divorce and alimony laws in Oklahoma, go to lawyers.com.