Alimony and Spousal Support in a Mississippi Divorce
In Mississippi (as in most states), alimony is the legal obligation of a person to provide financial support to his or her spouse before or after marital separation or divorce.
The notion that a married person owes sustenance to a spouse goes as far back as the Code of Hammurabi, which was written in 1754 BC, and declared that a man must provide sustenance to a woman who has borne him children, so that she can raise them. The term, alimony, comes from the Latin word alimōnia, meaning nourishment, or sustenance.
Traditionally, alimony was paid by a husband to a former wife, but since the 1970s, there have been moves in many countries, including the U.S., towards gender equality with the recognition that a former husband may also be entitled to alimony from his former wife.
Types of Alimony in Mississippi
There are four types of alimony and spousal support in the state of Mississippi:
Support ordered when the parties are separated prior to divorce. Also called alimony pendente lite, which is Latin, meaning, “pending the suit.”
Support given to a lesser-earning spouse for a period of time necessary to acquire work outside the home and become self-sufficient.
Permanent alimony is support paid to the lesser-earning spouse until the death of the payer, the death of the recipient, or the remarriage of the recipient.
Support given as a reimbursement for expenses incurred by a spouse during the marriage (such as educational expenses).
Factors the Court Will Consider in Awarding Alimony
During a divorce in Mississippi, either spouse can ask the Court to award alimony. The judge will look at several factors to determine the amount of alimony to be paid, sometimes known as the Armstrong factors, based on the 1993 case of Armstrong v. Armstrong:
- The income and expenses of the parties;
- The health and earning capacities of the parties;
- The needs of each party;
- The obligations and assets of each party;
- The length of the marriage;
- The presence or absence of minor children in the home, which may require that one or both of the parties either pay, or personally provide, child care;
- The age of the parties;
- The standard of living of the parties, both during the marriage and at the time of the support determination;
- The tax consequences of the spousal support order;
- Any fault or misconduct by either party;
- Any wasteful dissipation of assets by either party;
- Any other factor deemed by the court to be “just and equitable” in connection with the setting of spousal support.
There are two ways in which alimony can be paid: periodic alimony and lump sum alimony.
Periodic alimony consists of payments set at specific time intervals for a certain period, for example, a monthly payment for exactly ten years, or an order that lasts until a specific event occurs. This type of alimony ends when the dependent spouse gets remarried or if either spouse dies. Either spouse can go to the court and ask for a modification if there are changed circumstances. Changed circumstances can be employment changes for either spouse, or any physical changes or injuries that prevent either spouse from working.
Lump Sum Alimony
Lump sum alimony is a one-time payment from one spouse to the other; this is a final order between the two spouses that cannot be changed or modified. Although lump-sum payments are generally paid at one time, the Court may allow the payments to be made in fixed installments. For example, a spouse may be ordered to pay $50,000 in total, in payments of 25,000 at the time of divorce and then another $25,000 in six months.
In addition, the Court may order a spouse to pay rehabilitative alimony (as explained above) in order to help the dependent spouse obtain training or education to become self-supporting.
Calculating Alimony Payments in Mississippi
Mississippi does not have any specific guidelines for calculating either the type or amount of alimony. Each case is different and each judge makes decisions on a case-by-case basis. However, the Court must state a specific amount to be paid in its final judgment, and will often attempt to set an amount that will provide the receiving spouse with approximately the same standard of living as experienced in the marriage. At the same time, the Court also will recognize that the paying spouse has the right to live as normal a life as possible while also maintaining a decent standard of living.
Tax Considerations for Alimony
Payments from one spouse to another are deductible for tax purposes from the paying spouse’s income, and includable in the income of the receiving spouse. We would recommend consulting an accountant to determine the specific tax requirements of your situation.
Failure to Pay Alimony
Failure of a spouse to pay court-ordered alimony can have serious repercussions, including the garnishing of wages, and liens against personal property, as well as other possible civil and criminal penalties. Also, a paying spouse may not purposefully change his or her financial condition in an attempt to seek modification of a periodic alimony payment.
Contact Our Office To Schedule a Consultation With An Attorney
Contact the office of Maley & Nicholas for a consultation to better understand your options regarding alimony or any other aspect of divorce. We are here to help.