Alimony and Equitable Distribution

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Alimony and Equitable Distribution

Both alimony and the equitable distribution of property involve the exchange of money between divorcing spouses; however, they are two very different concepts involved in a divorce. One is mandatory while the other is not, and the purpose behind alimony and equitable distribution vary. At 1-800-Family-Law, we help clients find family law attorneys in their area that can help them through the process of equitable distribution during divorce and determine whether alimony is appropriate for your case.

What is Alimony?

Alimony, also known as spousal support, is money paid from one spouse to the other following a divorce. The purpose of alimony is to support one former spouse who may be unable to support themselves without the help of their ex. This may be due to a number of factors, including maintaining the household while their spouse worked or sacrificing their own professional career, so their spouse could pursue degrees or professional licenses. Factors like the length of the marriage, the age of the spouses, and the earning capacity of each spouse are taken into consideration. Typically, alimony ends when either former spouse passes away or the receiving spouse gets remarried.

Equitable Distribution of Property

The equitable distribution of property is the process during a divorce where all marital property, both assets and debts, are divided between the spouses at the time of divorce, essentially determining who gets what in a divorce. The first step is to identify all marital property, which is personal property or real estate that was acquired during the course of the marriage, with some exceptions made like gifts to one spouse or inheritances. Separate property, which is property that was brought into the marriage by each individual spouse and not intermingled with marital property, is not part of the process.

Once all marital property is identified, the marital estate is divided between the spouses equitably. This does not necessarily mean an equal 50/50 split. Factors considered in the equitable distribution of property include the length of the marriage, misconduct or fault, contributions made to the marital estate (both assets and debts), the income of each spouse, retirement earnings of each spouse, any award of alimony, and the tax consequences of the distribution.

How Does Alimony Differ from Equitable Distribution?

Alimony and the equitable distribution of property differ in a couple of ways. First, the equitable distribution of property is mandated in all divorces. Marital assets and debts are split between the spouses, whereas alimony is not always ordered by the court. Alimony can be ordered in addition to the equitable distribution of property, especially if the continued payments from one former spouse to the other would make the split more equal.

In addition, alimony payments continue after the divorce is final, whereas once the distribution of property is complete the process of equitable distribution is over. An experienced family law attorney can help you navigate the process of equitable distribution and discuss whether alimony payments are appropriate for your situation during your divorce.

Our Office Can Help

If you have further questions about alimony or the equitable distribution of property during a divorce, our office can help you find an experienced family law attorney in your area. Spousal support and the distribution of property vary from state to state, so it is important that you find a quality attorney in your area that can help. Call or contact us today at 1-800-Family-Law to learn more.