After the court identifies and distributes marital assets, it will determine the need for alimony. In the event that both parties have sufficient earning capacity or the property division is sufficient to keep the parties from becoming destitute, the alimony award is less likely. In Mississippi, as Jackson alimony lawyer M. Devin Whitt recognizes, a disparity in the parties' income is the single most common reason for an award of alimony. And, while there are no preset statutory guidelines to help lawyers and judges determine the amount of any alimony award, the court will utilize the factors in Armstrong v. Armstrong, 618 So.2d 1278 (Miss. 1993), to determine the need and amount of any alimony award in Mississippi.
There are several basic types of alimony in Mississippi, including: (1) temporary alimony; (2) permanent alimony; (3) lump sum alimony; (4) rehabilitative alimony; and, (5) reimbursement alimony. There are also hybrid forms of alimony routinely created by attorneys that utilize unique characteristics from each type of alimony referenced above and combine them to fit the unique needs of the parties. However, the basic characteristics are the amount of the award, duration, whether the alimony survives death and/or remarriage of the parties, the tax consequences of the award, and the ability of the court to modify the award of the alimony in the future.
The first type of alimony is temporary alimony. In Mississippi, temporary alimony or alimony “pendent lite” may be awarded while divorce or separate maintenance proceedings are pending before a court. Temporary alimony may be ordered where the parties are married and living separate, one party has filed suit against the other for separate maintenance or divorce, and the court has jurisdiction over the case. Upon entry of the final judgment in the divorce matter, the party's obligation to pay temporary alimony ends, but the judgment will not end the obligation to pay any temporary alimony arrearages that exist.
Another type of alimony is permanent alimony. Permanent alimony is paid from one spouse to the other and continues until the death of one or both parties or the remarriage of the recipient. It is deductible from the income of the payor and will be included as income to the payee. The factors considered by the court for a permanent alimony award are the Armstrong factors referenced above, and Jackson alimony attorney M. Devin Whitt can discuss these factors with you. They include:
- the parties' income and expenses;
- the parties' health and earning capacity;
- the needs of each party;
- the obligations and assets of each party;
- the length of the marriage;
- the presence or absence of minor children in the home, which may require child care;
- the parties' age;
- the parties' standard of living during the marriage and at the time support is determined;
- tax consequences of the support order;
- fault and/or misconduct;
- dissipation of assets by either party;
- other factors deemed to be "just and equitable".
Although permanent alimony awards are becoming rarer as courts and attorneys alike strive to eliminate sources of conflict for individuals once married, it is more common in cases where a long term marriage (20+ years) is combined with a large disparity in income between the parties, and inability of one spouse to re–enter the workplace and become self–supporting. If circumstances change, permanent alimony awards can be modified to increase or decrease the amount of the award or even eliminate the award all together. Jackson alimony attorney M. Devin Whitt can help you seek a modification when appropriate.
On the other hand, lump sum alimony is a fixed, certain sum of money that vests at the time a final judgment or order is entered. In Mississippi, lump sum alimony is often used to create an equitable property division where one or more of the assets to be distributed are not liquid (i.e. a house or a business). Contrary to permanent alimony, lump sum alimony cannot be modified, survives the death of the payor as an obligation of the estate, does not terminate at the payee's death or remarriage, and is not taxable to the recipient or deductible for the payor.
Rehabilitative alimony is another type of alimony courts are using to create equity. Rehabilitative alimony is similar to permanent alimony, but has a fixed ending date and is awarded to provide transitional support. Specifically, rehabilitative alimony provides a spouse direct or indirect (third party) payments for a short to medium duration of time while they are taking the necessary steps to re–enter the workforce and become self–supporting. Like permanent alimony, rehabilitative alimony may be modified based on a change in circumstances and terminates upon the death of the payor or payee.
Reimbursement is a relatively new form of alimony created by the Mississippi Supreme Court in 1999. Reimbursement alimony is awarded to a spouse who provided for and/or supported the other spouse through school or whose contribution cannot be recognized through normal property division. Reimbursement alimony is similar to lump sum alimony, because payments vest at the award, are nonmodifiable and do not terminate at the death or remarriage of the parties. Presumably, reimbursement alimony has similar characteristics to lump sum alimony in that it should vest completely at the time of judgment, be nonmodificable, and should not terminate at the death of either party or the remarriage of the recipient.
Finally, hybrid forms of alimony are quickly becoming the most used type of alimony in Mississippi. Hybrid alimony uses a blending or combination of the characteristics of different types of alimony to accomplish certain goals or objectives of the parties. Jackson alimony lawyer M. Devin Whitt can help you understand whether hybrid alimony is right for you.