If you are thinking about getting a divorce in Rhode Island, the financial aspect of it may weigh heavily on your mind. No matter your income level, your financial situation can take a hit when you divorce. Spouses who didn't work or worked less while married are in a harder position because they are financially dependent on the other spouse. Rather than allow the spouse to succumb to a lower standard of living or become a public charge, spousal support or alimony might be established.
That said, spousal support / alimony is not as common today as years ago because both spouses often work outside the home and earn their own income. It is, however, an important component of any divorce where the financial disparity requires it. If you have questions about spousal support, whether you are the one who wants alimony or the one who must provide it, contact the Law Office of Melissa Larsen, Esq. at 401-218-0862 to schedule a free initial consultation. Melissa will provide honest answers and advocate for your rights.
Understanding Alimony in Rhode Island
Spousal support, spousal maintenance, and alimony are all terms used to describe a situation where one spouse pays another spouse a court-ordered payment for a certain amount of time during or after a divorce. In RI, these payments are referred to as alimony.
Spouses can agree on alimony, but the end result must be fair. If you fail to agree, the spouse seeking support must file a formal notice with the court to request alimony.
Alimony is considered rehabilitative in Rhode Island, which means it is for a period of time, not permanent. It can also be a lump-sum versus periodic monthly payments, the latter of which is the norm. Further, alimony is not always in the form of money but can include a property transfer. Both lump-sum payments and property transfers are non-modifiable once the order is issued. That means if circumstances change, the alimony will not change. However, when it is in the form of periodic payments, alimony is modifiable.
If you waive alimony at the time of your divorce in RI, you can never go back to the Court and request an award of alimony. In other words, your decision is permanent. Therefore it is extremely important that you understand this important right prior to waiving alimony.
Factors Determining the Amount of alimony
The circumstances of the spouses going through a divorce will determine both the amount and the duration of alimony payments. Some of the most important factors that might influence alimony include but are not limited to:
- The length of the marriage
- Age of the spouses
- Mental or physical condition of each spouse
- The income disparity between the spouses
- The likelihood that the financially-dependent spouse can secure a well-paying job
- Professional skills or educational accomplishments of the dependent spouse
- The couple's standard of living during the marriage
- Individual assets of each spouse
- How long it would take for the dependent spouse to become self-sufficient
- Any children and if child support will be needed
As mentioned above, you and your spouse can determine the amount by an agreement without interference of the court, keeping in mind it must be fair.
Termination of alimony in Rhode Island
An end date can also be determined by agreement between the spouses, but if not, the court will determine it. Other times or in lieu of an end date, spousal support may terminate if one of the following occurs:
- The supported spouse remarries or cohabitates; or
- Either spouse dies.
A significant event may occur, too, which prompts an end to alimony. In that case, it's determined on a case-by-case basis. Regardless of the reason to terminate alimony, evidence may need to be provided to support the reason for termination.
Defenses to Challenge alimony
Alimony can be a highly contested aspect of any divorce. The spouse who may be ordered to pay alimony may want to challenge it. Reasons to deny a spousal support claim include but are not limited to:
- Marital misconduct
- Cruelty, including domestic violence
- Felony conviction
- Humiliation that makes marriage intolerable
- substance abuse or addiction
In the end, if alimony is contested, the final say on the matter will be the judge. It's important to try at all costs to come to an agreement because the expense of hearings or a trial can take its toll on a divorcing couple.
Alimony Enforcement in Rhode Island
Once a alimony order is signed by a judge, it is enforceable. It may be possible for payment to set up automatic payments sent to the supported spouse. Other times, the paying spouse pays the supported spouse directly. The arrangement of spousal support payments will be included in the Family Court order.
If the paying spouse fails to pay, they can be held in contempt of court and could face fines, interest and penalties. The supported spouse can file a show-cause action with the court and a hearing will be set.
Contact Attorney Melissa Larsen Today
If you are seeking a divorce, you should always get the advice and guidance of a divorce lawyer. At the Law Office of Melissa Larsen, Esq., we provide the support and representation you need, including your efforts to obtain, argue against, or modify alimony. Contact us online or directly at 401-218-0862 to schedule a free initial consultation.