Christy Bieber, J.D.
Adam Ramirez, J.D.
Published: Feb 7, 2023, 4:57am
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Table of Contents
- What Is Alimony?
- How Does Alimony Work?
- Do All 50 States Enforce Alimony?
- What States Do Not Enforce Alimony if You Move?
- Getting Legal Help with Alimony
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Alimony or spousal support is awarded after some divorces. There are many factors that determine if alimony is appropriate and the rules for when spousal support is available differ by state.
Alimony is, however, available and enforced throughout the United States. So if you’re interested in finding what states do not enforce alimony, you may find that there are no places that fit the bill.
This guide explains how alimony works and why there are no states that don’t enforce it.
What Is Alimony?
Alimony refers to financial support that one spouse is required to provide to another after a marriage has come to an end.
Alimony may be awarded for a limited period of time to give a lower earning spouse or a non-working spouse time to find a job or develop their work skills. Or it may be awarded indefinitely if the state allows permanent alimony and it is appropriate for the situation.
It is usually awarded when there is a disparity in earning potential between two divorcing spouses–especially if the marriage was a long one.
How Does Alimony Work?
There is a common misconception that alimony is something husbands are required to pay to wives. This is not necessarily the case. The key factor in who pays alimony is which spouse earns more. Gender is not a factor nor is whether the marriage is a same-sex or hetero marriage.
A couple can negotiate the issue of alimony on their own and decide how much the higher earner will pay to the lower-earning spouse. Or, if the couple is not able to come to an agreement on this issue, the court will order alimony to be paid if appropriate.
State rules differ on the factors courts consider when determining if alimony is appropriate. In general, some of the key issues that affect whether spousal support must be paid and how much support is awarded include the following:
- The earning potential of both parties
- The length of time and level of training a lower-earning spouse needs to become self supporting
- The ability of the higher-earning spouse to afford to support two households
- Whether one spouse supported the other in obtaining a degree or creating a business
- The length of the marriage
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- Whether one spouse was a homemaker or stayed home with children of the marriage
- Whether there are children and, if so, whether child support is also required
- Whether the divorce is a fault divorce or a no-fault divorce
These are the factors the court considers when deciding on the issue of alimony. Couples have more flexibility in setting alimony on their own if they negotiate this issue outside of court rather than asking a judge to decide.
Do All 50 States Enforce Alimony?
Since state rules do differ on when and how alimony is awarded, it’s natural to wonder what states do not enforce alimony–especially if you are afraid you will be ordered to pay it.
The reality, however, is that alimony does exist in some form in each state. While some locations have less generous provisions for spousal support than others (such as states that allow only temporary and not permanent alimony), there’s no state where alimony is always off the table.
Further, you must file for divorce in a place where you or your spouse have established residency. This means you can’t just decide to file for divorce in a place that has alimony rules you find more favorable to your situation.
What States Do Not Enforce Alimony if You Move?
If you have been granted alimony, or ordered to pay it, you may wonder what states don’t enforce alimony if you move.
For example, if you are entitled to alimony and you move to another state, you may be afraid your spouse will no longer be obligated to send you money. That is not the case in most circumstances though. Even if you relocate, if your divorce decree specifies that alimony is owed, your move to a different place does not negate this requirement.
While things like remarriage or even cohabitating with a new partner could potentially result in the end of your alimony depending on the terms of your divorce, a simple move to a different state usually won’t cause spousal support payments to stop.
Likewise, if you have been ordered to pay alimony, you can’t escape this obligation by moving. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act ensures that divorce decrees made in one state are enforceable in others.
Typically, the spouse owed the alimony can register the support order in the location where the paying spouse moves to and the courts in the new location will enforce the order. If you are entitled to alimony and you find yourself in a situation where your ex has moved and is not paying as required, you should consult with an experienced family law attorney for help.
Getting Legal Help with Alimony
Alimony can be an important source of support for a lower earning spouse when there is a difference in earning potential between spouses. However, it can also be a financial burden on the person who is obligated to pay.
When you end your marriage, whether you are seeking alimony or trying to avoid it, it’s best to have a family law attorney representing your interests and arguing for your preferred outcome.
Your lawyer can help you negotiate a fair divorce settlement with regards to spousal support or can help you persuade the court to issue a ruling on this matter that’s favorable to you.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How can alimony be avoided in the U.S.?
If you want to make sure you will not owe alimony if you get a divorce, you should consider entering into a premarital agreement or a prenup. If you do not have a prenup, you can negotiate on the issue of alimony with your spouse and try to come to a divorce settlement agreement where you do not have to pay it. If your spouse does not agree, you may end up in family court with a judge deciding on whether you owe alimony or not.
Do all states enforce alimony?
All states in the U.S. have laws allowing for alimony in certain situations, although some states are more restrictive in when and how long spousal support can be required. States will also enforce court orders for alimony made elsewhere as long as the court order is valid.
Is there a way around alimony?
If you have been ordered to pay alimony, you must pay as required. However, you may be able to get the court to modify an existing spousal support order. This may be possible if your ex-spouse’s earning potential has changed or if your ex spouse has moved in with or married a new partner. If your own income declines, you can also ask the court to revisit alimony in most cases.
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