If you are considering a divorce, alimony seems like a relative simple concept. Alimony is court-ordered financial support from one spouse to the other after divorce. However, there are many types and classifications of alimony that determine how that support is paid.
Two main types of alimony are alimony in gross and periodic alimony. Periodic alimony is awarded in installments for an undefined duration, beginning from the final order of divorce and only ending with either party’s death or with the recipient spouse’s remarriage.
Alimony in gross is fixed, single, and definite in amount. The main difference between the two types is modification. Periodic alimony may be modified in amount (for example, if the paying spouse loses his job and can no longer afford to pay at the same rate until he finds a new job). Alimony in gross may not be modified; that whole sum must be payed to the recipient spouse.
In Andrews v. Andrews, the husband was required to pay $500 per month in alimony in gross for eight years. During those eight years, he was also required to keep a life insurance policy that named the wife as irrevocable beneficiary. Three years after their divorce, the wife filed a petition alleging that the husband had neither been paying alimony nor maintaining the life insurance policy.
The husband tried to argue for modification and that the alimony was periodic rather than in gross. The court in Houston County held otherwise; finding that the alimony was alimony in gross and holding the husband in contempt and subjecting him to pay his $9,000 debt.
On appeal, the husband argued that he had been discharged from bankruptcy and now reopened the bankruptcy case to include his alimony in gross obligation. However, the husband did not provide evidence that his previous bankruptcy action determined the extent of his liability for the alimony.
Furthermore, because the alimony was treated as income on the wife’s tax returns and not subject to change if she remarried, the wife had a vested interest in this alimony (alimony in gross). The Court affirmed the judgment, requiring the husband to pay the alimony in gross.
The takeaway here is that when divorcing, it is important for you to understand the terms of your arrangement, whether you are paying or receiving payment. Things like child support and alimony typically cannot be discharged in bankruptcy but if you are dealing with periodic alimony or alimony in gross.
If you believe you have an alimony issue where you are not being paid what you should, you should have an experienced, knowledgeable attorney on your side to ensure you and your family’s rights are protected. Contact INGRAM LAW LLC at (205) 335-2640 for an attorney with the experience and knowledge that can make all the difference.