Spousal support, more commonly known as alimony, is not necessarily paid because one spouse makes more than the other spouse. The most common myth is that one spouse is entitled to alimony to the extent that it evens the party’s incomes upon dissolution. The reality is that the spouse requesting alimony must show first, that they have an unmet need that is not covered by their current income AND second, that the spouse who would pay has the ability (or excess income after meeting their own need) to cover the requesting spouse’s unmet need. Additionally, other factors are taken into consideration to further determine the need, type and duration of alimony. Generally, alimony paid is a reduction to the taxable income of the paying spouse and an increase in taxable income to the receiving spouse. Alimony also impacts the child support calculations, so alimony is generally determined before child support is calculated.
Alimony can also be requested during the pendency of the litigation or unconnected to dissolution of marriage, such as where two parties may be living separately. Alimony may or may not be modifiable depending on the circumstances that established the alimony and the reasons one is seeking to modify it.