If you are contemplating filing for divorce, or if you have been served divorce documentation, determining whether you or your spouse may be entitled to alimony or other spousal support is a serious consideration. You should consult with an attorney experienced in this area of domestic relations law.
Alimony, or spousal support, is money paid by one spouse for the support and maintenance of the other spouse. When a party starts a divorce proceeding, he or she may need the immediate intervention of the court to establish temporary alimony as a part of other types of temporary relief. The amount of temporary alimony is based upon the financial circumstances existing at that time, as presented to the court in financial statements and testimony. In Rhode Island there are no written guidelines used by judges to establish either temporary spousal support or alimony. Alimony awarded in the divorce decree can be temporary, lasting for a specified time, or can be permanent, intended to continue at the same payment indefinitely into the future or until a time specified by the court.
In accordance with Rhode Island General Laws section 15-5-16, in determining the amount of alimony, if any, to be paid, the Family Court shall consider:
(i) The length of the marriage;
(ii) The conduct of the parties during the marriage;
(iii) The health, age, station, occupation, amount and source of income, vocational skills, and employability of the parties; and
(iv)(1) The state and the liabilities and needs of each of the parties.
(2) In addition, the court shall consider:
(i) The extent to which either party is unable to support herself or himself adequately because that party is the primary physical custodian of a child whose age, condition, or circumstances make it appropriate that the parent not seek employment outside the home, or seek only part-time or flexible-hour employment outside the home;
(ii) The extent to which either party is unable to support herself or himself adequately with consideration given to:
(A) The extent to which a party was absent from employment while fulfilling homemaking responsibilities, and the extent to which any education, skills, or experience of that party have become outmoded and his or her earning capacity diminished;
(B) The time and expense required for the supported spouse to acquire the appropriate education or training to develop marketable skills and find appropriate employment;
(C) The probability, given a party's age and skills, of completing education or training and becoming self-supporting;
(D) The standard of living during the marriage;
(E) The opportunity of either party for future acquisition of capital assets and income;
(F) The ability to pay of the supporting spouse, taking into account the supporting spouse's earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets, debts, and standard of living;
(G) Any other factor which the court expressly finds to be just and proper.
if a Rhode Island family court order awarding alimony is entered, federal law states that the spouse receiving the alimony pursuant to court order must treat the payments as income on federal tax returns, while the spouse paying the order may treat it as a deduction from income for federal tax purposes. In addition to the amount for spousal support, if the payor spouse pays any additional amounts for payment on the mortgage, health insurance, or unreimbursed medical expenses, these additional payments may also be considered as payments for alimony under federal tax laws.
If an individual is paying or receiving spousal support or alimony, the best policy is to consult with a tax advisor to inquire whether the general rules outlined above are applicable to your specific situation.
The Rhode Island Insurance Continuation Act provides for the continuation of health insurance coverage for ex-spouses. The maintenance of health insurance is a form of support, the award of which is within the trial court's discretion. Specifically, the eligibility to remain a named beneficiary of the insurance policy of the spouse who is a participant in the health plan shall continue as long as the original member is a participant in the plan or health maintenance organization and until either one of the following shall take place: (1) the remarriage of either party to the divorce; or (2) until a time as provided by the judgment for divorce.
Attorney Christopher E. Friel has represented hundreds of family law clients including many clients with spousal support and alimony issues. If you are the plaintiff or defendant in a spousal support or alimony case, call Attorney Friel at 737-4200 extension 23, to learn how he can help you obtain a fair result in your case.