Which States Do Not Enforce Alimony?

About Brette Sember, JD | Divorce.com

By Brette Sember, JD Updated Mar 28, 2024


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Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is common in divorces. However, the rules vary by state.

If you are wondering which states do not enforce alimony, the answer is that all states enforce alimony with no exceptions. With that in mind, there are important rules to understand about alimony.

Keep reading to learn more.

Key Takeaways

  • Alimony is enforced in all U.S. states, with no exceptions.
  • Specifics of alimony laws, including eligibility and duration, differ across states.
  • Alimony can be durational or permanent, which varies with the marriage length or the couple’s circumstances.
  • Some states have specific rules for awarding alimony based on adultery or length of marriage and regarding estate deductions.
  • Alimony obligations are enforceable across state lines due to the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA).

What Is Alimony?

Alimony is payments from one spouse to another after the end of a marriage. It is a provision in some divorce settlements and judgments. Alimony payments are usually made by the spouse who has the higher income or more assets (called the payor) to the spouse with fewer assets or a lower income (the payee).

The court can award alimony as part of the divorce judgment. The spouses can also agree to it in a prenuptial or postmarital agreement. The couple can also enter into a settlement for the divorce that determines the amount of alimony. They can create a settlement themselves, with their lawyers, or through mediation or arbitration.

Types of Alimony

Each state has its own laws and definition when it comes to how alimony can be awarded, so be sure to check your own state rules. In general, there are several types of alimony:

  • Temporary alimony: Alimony payments that are made while the divorce case is pending and meant to provide some ongoing support to the payee spouse while the case is being decided.
  • Rehabilitative alimony: Often one spouse needs time and resources to be able to obtain education or work experience so that they can become self-supporting. This type of alimony is usually ordered for specific period of time to provide that support.
  • Durational alimony: This is alimony that is ordered for a specific period of time to offset the gap between the standard of living the couple had while married and the standard of living the payee spouse has after the divorce. Many states have a formula that determines the length of the payments, such as one-third the length of the marriage. Some states have a minimum length of time a marriage must have lasted for this to apply, such as five or seven years.
  • Indirect alimony: The payor spouse can be ordered to make payments on behalf of the payee spouse, such as making mortgage payments for their home.
  • Permanent alimony: This is alimony that lasts until either spouse dies or the payee spouse remarries. It is most common when the payee spouse is elderly or disabled. In some states, if the payor dies, the alimony must continue to be paid out of their estate.

Does My State Have Alimony?

All states have alimony. Every state in the United States has its own alimony laws, so they’re all a little different.

Some states have more comprehensive alimony laws than others. Every state allows for some form of alimony, like rehabilitative alimony. With rehabilitative alimony, the paying spouse will provide their ex-spouse with monthly payments for a predetermined period of time.

These payments aren’t intended to be a long-term source of income.

They’re only used until the recipient spouse can find a sustainable source of income, like a career. State laws for permanent alimony vary significantly.

Most states prohibit permanent alimony. Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, Oregon, Vermont, and West Virginia are the only states that allow permanent alimony. Texas has alimony but rarely awards it through the court system.

They prefer alimony decided in private contracts, like prenuptial agreements or collaborative divorce settlements.

In Texas, you’ll only have to pay alimony if you agree to it during your divorce or if you have a preexisting marital agreement that includes it.

Some states, like South Carolina, have specifications regarding alimony in fault or no-fault divorces. A fault divorce is where one spouse alleges that another spouse engaged in “marital misconduct,” which usually refers to abusive behavior or an affair. If someone engaged in these behaviors, they may not be entitled to receive alimony.

How Is Alimony Determined?

Each state has laws that determine whether alimony is needed and, if so, how much should be paid. Either spouse (regardless of gender) can be ordered to pay alimony to the other.

Common factors that courts consider include:

  • Each spouse's contributions to the marriage, such as staying home with the children.
  • Whether either spouse supported the other while they got an education, professional license, or established professional practices.
  • Whether one spouse has more financial resources than the other.
  • The health of both spouses.
  • Tax consequences of alimony.
  • The court will determine how much time one spouse needs to become self-supporting through education or training.
  • Each spouse’s income and earning potential and whether one spouse can afford to pay alimony.
  • The standard of living the spouses shared while they were married.
  • If they have children and if so where they live and if child support is required

The reason for the divorce does not generally impact alimony. However, financial misconduct or misappropriation of marital funds (such as using them to gamble or pay for an affair) could have an impact on alimony.

Which States Don’t Enforce Alimony?

Every state enforces alimony.

Some people who do not want to pay their former spouse alimony think that moving to a different state will relieve them of their obligation. This does not work.

Alimony is a court order. Your ex-spouse can report that you haven’t been making your payments, and your new local court will contact you. They’ll take over the responsibility of enforcing the maintenance payments you were ordered to pay in your former state.

Alimony can be enforced in a variety of ways, such as:

  • Wage garnishments
  • Judgments
  • Withholding of tax refunds, unemployment, workers’ compensation, or disability payments
  • Seizure of assets, including bank accounts
  • Liens on real property
  • Suspension of drivers and professional licenses
  • Receivership appointments
  • Contempt of court, including fines and jail time

If you believe your alimony arrangement is unfair or unreasonable, the best thing to do is contact a family law attorney. An attorney can review the details of your situation and let you know if you have any reasonable way to challenge the court’s alimony award to your ex-spouse.

Will I Lose Alimony if I Move to Another State?

For individuals receiving alimony who are concerned about the impact of moving to another state on their alimony payments, it's important to understand that alimony orders are enforceable across state lines within the United States.

This means that if you, as the recipient, decide to move to another state, your alimony agreement remains valid and enforceable. The Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA) ensures that support orders, including alimony, are recognized and enforced nationwide, regardless of where either party resides.

However, to ease any concerns and ensure a smooth transition, it's advisable to consult with a family law attorney before moving. They can provide guidance on notifying the appropriate legal entities and any steps you may need to take to continue receiving your alimony payments without interruption.

Final Thoughts

Alimony payments are support payments given by one spouse to the other after a divorce.

Alimony payments can be either durational or permanent, depending on a couple’s financial situation after divorce. All states enforce alimony, which means you should not try to move from one state to another to avoid making alimony payments.

Alimony can also be discussed without a lawyer as part of a divorce settlement, saving you time and money. No matter how alimony is discussed, understanding how it works in your state may help you better negotiate terms with your partner.

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