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What you should know about alimony

Divorce can be an ugly process, involving court battles over who gets the house and the kids. If your spouse was the main breadwinner, you may also be wondering how you're going to support yourself.

If you think you may be entitled to spousal support, it is important that you understand your rights during the divorce settlement.

How is alimony calculated?

Usually, spousal support is calculated by a formula that can vary county to county. Many factors will be taken into consideration when the judge is making the calculation.

The court will consider such circumstances as the length of the marriage, the standard of living you were accustomed to during the marriage and whether you helped your partner in completing his or her education or professional licensing.

Other factors include your age and health, debts, property, if you sacrificed your career to raise your children, and even the tax impact of affording you alimony.

What happens if my spouse falls behind on support payments?

If the court has decided that alimony must be paid as part of your divorce settlement, then it is considered a court order that is in effect until either a predetermined end date arrives or the court ends it.

If your ex falls behind on payments, then he or she will owe an additional 10 percent in interest per year on the balance due, as decreed by state law.

If payments are not being made simply because your ex chooses not to pay them, the court can hold your ex in contempt and order that jail time be served.

What if we decide on a support agreement?

You and your spouse may decide on spousal support outside of the influence of the court. If you do this, you will sign a written agreement and will not have to go before a judge for an alimony decision.

For the agreement to become a court order, however, a judge will have to approve and sign it.

Before you sign an alimony agreement, you should be completely informed of what you're agreeing to and your rights. An experienced divorce attorney will be able to make sure the agreement is in your best interest.

What are the tax consequences of alimony?

In most cases, if you are receiving alimony, you will have to claim it as taxable income on your tax return. Your spouse will be able to deduct the spousal support.

If you are considering divorce, it is important that you understand all of your options. For advice concerning spousal support, contact an attorney with family law experience.

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