If you are paying or receiving alimony (or spousal support) that amount may not be set in stone. Either as part of an agreement between the divorcing spouses the two may agree that alimony payments reduce or cease over a period of time. That also may be part of a court order where the issue of alimony is decided by the judge.
Gone are the days when prenuptial agreements are viewed as contracts on a marriage or a guarantee on divorce. While some religions and cultures still do frown upon them, they can be a great way to talk about finances and strengthen your marriage with clear expectations. If you have children from a previous relationship and significant assets to protect, a prenup can also make everyone feel more comfortable.
If you expect to receive alimony in a divorce, you will want to make sure that any agreement specifies the terms on which it is modifiable. Alimony is normally modifiable in amount provided you state that in your agreement, but not modifiable in duration. In Pennsylvania, however, if your spouse dies or you remarry or you live with another person unrelated of the opposite sex, alimony terminates at that time, unless you specify otherwise in an agreement. Since alimony does terminate in death, it is important to consider life insurance in your divorce plan or agreement. Many agreements will provide that until your alimony terminates that it is secured by a life insurance policy equal to or more than the remaining amount of money that you anticipate that you will receive over the course of the alimony term. In some instances, you may want to consider a buyout of alimony if you are paying alimony. This means that instead of making monthly payments on alimony, you lump sum the payment upfront and usually ask for a reduced amount since the money is being paid immediately. In this case, however, you may lose the deduction on your tax return depending on how the agreement is drafted since normally alimony is deductable by the payor and taxable to the payee. In addition, you will not be entitled to any of the payment back should your spouse remarry or cohabitate, but you will not be subject to an increase if your income goes up. There are many options to consider when paying or receiving alimony that should be considered in any divorce settlement. You should consult both an attorney and a certified public accountant.
Alimony is support paid to an ex-spouse following the divorce decree. Unless otherwise stated by agreement, alimony may be subsequently modified due the changed circumstances of either party. The changes must be substantial and of a continuing nature. For example, if a party loses their employment or becomes disabled modification could be sought. An alimony provision within an agreement between the parties may not be modified in the absence of a specific provision allowing such a modification within the agreement.
New Jersey is waiting to hear whether the long sought-after changes to their alimony laws will be adopted. Many view NJ's alimony laws as unfair and inconsistent. The proposed changes to the law would seek to fortify a more uniform and rational framework for determining what amount and duration of alimony is appropriate as well as circumstances that would warrant a change or termination of the alimony award. One of the key provisions of the proposed new law is the "elimination" of permanent alimony which would be replaced with open durational alimony. Additionally, the court would be required to consider all the relevant factors for an alimony award and provide specific written findings of fact and conclusions of law in support of their decision. The factors would be expanded to include a consideration of support that has already been paid prior to finalization of the divorce as well as the standard of living of both parties such that neither would be entitled to a greater standard of living than the other post-divorce.