Alimony Determinations in Rhode Island
When a married couple gets a divorce, the family court may order either former spouse to pay alimony. The basis and award of alimony can vary, sometimes significantly, from state to state. The laws regarding alimony in Rhode Island can be found in Section 15-5-16 of Rhode Island’s General Laws – Divorce and Separation. Rhode Island alimony may also be called “spousal support,” “spousal maintenance,” “rehabilitative support.” Spousal maintenance can be a contentious issue in a divorce because for the payor it is often included with child support which may be a substantial sum of money. For the receiving spouse, alimony is often necessary for him or her to get back into the job market and become financially independent after the divorce is final. If a couple cannot agree on the issue and/or payment of spousal maintenance, the court will decide for the couple. For specific legal advice regarding spousal support in your divorce, always consult with a licensed alimony Lawyer in Rhode Island.
Factors the Court Will Consider in Rhode Island Alimony Orders
Courts have broad discretion in awarding alimony, determining the amounts and duration of the alimony. Spousal maintenance is not awarded in every divorce. However, the parties may agree to the amount and total time of support on their own through a settlement agreement. Therefore, there is no set formula the Judges follow is determining the award of spousal support. Judges in Rhode Island will consider many issues in making an award, including:
- Whether the party is capable of making the support payments (courts will take into account many expenses including child support, rent, mortgages, taxes, insurance, healthcare, utilities, vehicles, etc.)
- The length of the marriage before seeking a divorce (this is a crucial factor that the court weighs)
- The conduct of the spouses’ during the marriage (such as affairs, drug or alcohol addiction, gambling problem, domestic violence, etc.)
- The health, age, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties
- The state of needs and the liabilities of each of the parties
- The custody of minor children, if any, child support, and the party’s ability to support himself or herself
- If a party was a homemaker, the court would look at his or her education, skills, or experience and the potential earning capacity if entering the workforce
- Continued education or training to become self-supportive
- The probability of becoming self-sufficient
- The couples’ standard of living before the divorce
- The opportunity to earn wages or acquire property in the future
- Any other factor which the court finds to be just and property.
The Length of Alimony
If the court awards “temporary alimony,” then the receiving spouse will be paid temporary support during the divorce proceedings, until the divorce becomes final or until the divorce is final.
Under Rhode Island law, there are no specific guidelines for how long an alimony order can last. The goal of alimony is to help a spouse for a reasonable length of time to enable to receiving spouse to become financially independent and self-sufficient. The Judge will consider the factors listed above to set a specific end date. Spousal support is usually paid in increments which can be weekly, monthly, etc. Spousal support can be paid in one lump sum, but such form of payment is usually disfavored by the courts. In some circumstances, however, the court may award spousal maintenance for an indefinite period, when it is appropriate at the discretion of the court based upon the issues stated above. Indefinite spousal support is usually awarded due to age or disability. In other words, alimony could last forever in Rhode Island.
Either spouse may petition the court to modify or cut off alimony payments. For an award to be changed or end, the court must find that there was a substantial change in circumstances. Changes that may alter a spousal support order may include job loss or other circumstance that would seriously affect the paying spouse’s ability to pay alimony. Spousal maintenance automatically ends if the receiving spouse remarries.
Importantly, for an agreement about spousal support to be completely non-modifiable, the amount and duration of alimony must be agreed to in a Property Settlement Agreement. The court has no power in Rhode Island to modify a Property Settlement Agreement.
If a person is ordered to pay spousal support and does not pay it, the receiving spouse can file a motion for contempt of the court’s order.
Taxes on Spousal Support and Child Support
In general, alimony is tax deductible for the paying spouse. The spouse receiving spousal support is taxed because it is considered by the IRS to be a source of earned income. Spousal support is very different from child support, which is non-taxable. Again, please consult with a licensed alimony Lawyer in Rhode Island regarding the tax implications of alimony and child support.