Alimony/Separate Maintenance

Mississippi Alimony/Separate Maintenance Attorney

It is important to know the distinction between alimony and separate maintenance.  In Mississippi, courts of competent jurisdiction are able to award separate maintenance, which is an amount that will maintain the spouse in accordance with the parties’ standard of living and ability to provide.  This right exists independent of any action for divorce and may be brought in a suit for separate maintenance without asking the court for a divorce.  In essence, a separate maintenance order is a command of the court to require that the husband resume cohabitating with the wife or if he fails in so far as resuming that cohabitation, to provide her with suitable maintenance until such time as there may be reconciliation between the parties.  Separate maintenance is only available to the wife if she did not have a substantial contribution to the break-up of the marriage, i.e. but she is without substantial fault in the break-up of the parties.

Alimony (spousal support) is a product if statute in the state of Mississippi.  Mississippi statutory law essentially states that a court of competent jurisdiction has discretion to make all orders touching the maintenance in alimony of the husband or the wife or any allowance made to her or him and shall if need be require bond, surety, or other guarantee.  Until recently a wife was permitted an award of alimony based solely upon need if she was without fault in the breakup of the marriage.  Now, alimony is equally available both to the husband and the wife.  There are four types of alimony recognized in the state of Mississippi.

First, periodic alimony is the traditional monthly alimony awarded on the bases of need and does not have a fixed termination date. It is generally terminated upon remarriage or in the instant that the former husband or wife cohabitates with or had a relationship without the benefit of marriage.  It is the most common form of alimony and if a court order simply refers to alimony payments without a fixed ending date, it will generally be construed as periodic alimony by the courts.

Secondly, lump sum alimony is in the award of a fixed sum that is paid all at once or in installments.  It does not terminate upon death or remarriage and is not modifiable based on changed circumstances.   Also it is important to know that lump sum alimony may be awarded as a part of one spouse’s share of equitable distribution of the marital property.

Next, rehabilitative alimony is recognized by the state of Mississippi and is designed to assist the spouse in reentering the work force.  It is a periodic payment, but does have a fixed ending date.  It may be modified based on changed circumstances.  Also rehabilitative alimony will terminate upon the remarriage of the party receiving the alimony or spousal support.

Lastly, reimbursement alimony was first recognized by Mississippi in 1999.  Reimbursement alimony is awarded to the spouse who supported their spouse through graduate, professional, or other training where the training has not produced substantial property at the time of the divorce.  Reimbursement alimony in intended to remedy potential unfairness where the spouse that has obtained a professional degree or certification divorces the other one shortly after graduation.  If no specific type of alimony is provided in a court order that does require alimony, then it is deemed to generally be periodic alimony as previously noted, although if language exists more specifically describing the nature of the payments, or provides for a termination date courts may deem otherwise.

Fault does have a substantial influence of an award of alimony in any circumstance.  There has been found recently that a wife may not be denied alimony even if she was adjudged at fault in the divorce.  The court has made clear that fault is only one factor in consideration of alimony.  The courts have also specified that need is also to be weighed against any marital fault that caused the marriage to cease.  Some types of alimony may be generally modified upon a showing of a material change of circumstances that was not foreseeable at the time of the award.  Alimony may not be modified downward in some instances that it could otherwise have been where a payer has acted in bad faith to diminish the earning capacity or financial position.

In instances where alimony may be considered or a client believes that an award of alimony is appropriate under the circumstances, Matthew can provide you with the guidance you seek to determine whether or not an award of alimony is appropriate, and if so, what an appropriate amount and type of alimony would be under the circumstances.