District of ColumbiaAlimony Guide - Spousal Support Laws
District of Columbia Alimony Guide :: Table of Contents
What is Alimony?
Alimony, also known as spousal support, is a court-ordered provision of financial support a spouse for after a divorce. Alimony laws vary considerably from state to state, and courts often have significant flexibility on a case-by-case basis in determing whether to award alimony, how much alimony to award, and how long alimony payments will continue.
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In the District of Columbia, upon divorce, a dependent spouse may file for alimony. If a spouse has become dependent on the other, cannot continue their standard of living without the other, and/or has a significantly smaller separate estate than the other, alimony may be considered; these requirements, and many other factors, decide whether or not someone is eligible for alimony.
For alimony to be awarded, one spouse must have financial need and the other must have the financial ability to pay. The judge will also take into consideration the standard of living that was established for both spouses over the course of the marriage, the length of the marriage, the earning abilities of both spouses after divorce, and the time needed for the dependent spouse to gain education or training to become capable of earning an income capable of maintaining their standard of living. The estates and possessions of both spouses will also be taken into consideration to judge the need and financial ability of both spouses.
The District of Columbia has no formula to control the amount and length of alimony, or whether it shall be awarded; A judge wilLAWard alimony in whatever amount and length of time that has been deemed fitting for the circumstances. Unless otherwise dictated, changes in income and need of both parties may modify or terminate alimony after it has been established.
Custody of any children, and any child support required between parties of the divorce, are two other factors in the amount and consideration of spousal support. If the custodian of the child or children is unable to support themselves due to the children being of an age or condition that hinders the individual’s ability to support the child, such as if the spouse must remain home to care for the child, it would severely influence the case for alimony to be received by the custodian of said child or children.
In the end, if an agreement cannot be made between the two parties, alimony is awarded at the final judgment of the judge and court deciding the case.
In the District of Columbia, a number of factors are taken into account when calculating the amount and duration of alimony or spousal support payments.
Is there a set list of statutory factors for calculating alimony?
District of Columbia has a defined list of factors, described in statutory law, that are legally required to be considered by a judge when determining alimony payments. These factors may be directly connected to the alimony calculation formula.
Is marital fault considered in District of Columbia alimony?
District of Columbia considers marital fault when determining alimony payments. This means that "at-fault" divorces, which may be caused by infidelity / adultery, abuse, etc, can result in the at-fault party paying more "punitive" alimony.
Is standard of living considered in District of Columbia alimony?
Standard of living is considered when calculating alimony payments in the District of Columbia. This means that a judge will consider the lifestyle enjoyed by the alimony-receiving spouse during the duration of the marriage when determining an appropriate alimony payment amount.
Is custodial status considered when determining alimony in the District of Columbia?
The judge in the District of Columbia considers custodial status when determining alimony payments. This means that alimony calculations are affected by whether or not the receiving spouse has custody of the children, and custodial spouses may receive higher alimony payments.
How exactly is alimony calculated in the District of Columbia?
Calculation of alimony is generally done on a case-by-case basis by the District of Columbia family court judge who is responsible for the case. While some states have a fixed alimony calculation formula, in most cases the final amount and duration of alimony awarded (if alimony is awarded) is at the discretion of the judge.
- How long must alimony be paid?
- The duration of payments is determined by a judge in District of Columbia family court. Alimony length is usually based on length of marriage - one commonly used standard for alimony duration is that 1 year of alimony is paid every three years of marriage (however, this is not always the case in every state or with every judge). Alimony may also be discontinued upon the remarriage or cohabitation of the receiving spouse. In some cases, judges may even award permanent alimony.
- What happens if alimony isn't paid?
- If alimony is unpaid, the owed debt is known as alimony arrears. Arrears can be collected via mediation, small claims court, or wage garnishment. Failure to comply with a court-issued spousal support order may also result in a contempt of court charge against the spouse who failed to pay owed alimony.
- Can alimony be waived by a prenuptual agreement?
- A prenup agreement is a contract between spouses regarding marriage-related financial matters signed prior to marriage. Limitation or waiving rights to alimony is a frequent clause in modern prenuptual agreements, but some states or localities prohibit such alimony waivers.
- Can alimony be collected if you're not married?
- The legal concept of alimony, otherwise known as spousal support, is dependant upon a legal marriage. However, in some areas - especially those with a concept of common-law marriage - "palimony", or support payments between non-married individuals, has been awarded by courts. However, this generally requires extenuating circumstances.
- What is alimony mediation?
When a marriage ends through divorce and alimony is expected to be paid, spouses have the choice to determine an alimony agreement either through litigation (in District of Columbia family court) or through mutual agreement. Often, a District of Columbia alimony mediator can be brought in to help the ex-spouses come to a mutual agreement regarding alimony and other contested issues such as property division, and thus avoid having to go to court.
- How are alimony payments taxed?
On a federal level, all qualifying District of Columbia alimony payments are deductible by the payor, and counted as taxable income by the recipient. To qualify as alimony under IRS guidelines, the following must be true:
- The payments are in cash
- The parties live in seperate households
- The payments are strictly for alimony (as opposed to for child support, etc)
Taxation of alimony varies on a state and local level. You can learn more about District of Columbia income taxes here .