The End of Permanent Alimony in Mississippi?

While half of all marriages today do not last until “death do us part,” the financial obligations of the breadwinning spouse continue long after the divorce is final and can in fact last a lifetime.  For the receiving spouse, permanent alimony can be a lifesaver, but for those obligated to pay, it can have a devastating financial impact.  Recently, however, states and legislatures across the nation have begun to re-evaluate the concept of permanent alimony.  More and more states are doing away with or severely limiting permanent alimony awards, and soon, it appears, permanent alimony may be a thing of the past.

What is permanent alimony?

Permanent alimony is a court ordered monetary sum paid by one spouse to the other at specific intervals, usually monthly.  Permanent alimony obligations continue until either: the judgment is modified; one spouse dies; or the receiving spouse remarries.

Why was it created?

Permanent alimony was developed in an era when most men were the primary breadwinner and most wives were homemakers.  Wives often had little to no education and had devoted much of their adult life to taking care of the home, while their husbands advanced the corporate ladder.  Therefore, when divorce occurred, the home-making wives were left with little to no means of supporting themselves and their children.  Meanwhile, the husbands suffered no ill effects and had the same if not superior earning potential than they did upon entering the marriage.  In this context, the concept of permanent alimony made perfect sense.

Why have courts stepped away from awards of permanent alimony?

Family norms have changed and divorce laws must adapt along with changing family dynamics.  Today, many women pursue higher education and work throughout marriage.  Some men, on the other hand, have taken on a stay at home role and their wives function as the primary breadwinner.  In many families, both parents work and realize their career potential during the marriage.  Both spouses are capable of supporting themselves and their children upon termination of the marriage, doing away with any need for permanent alimony.

Recognizing these shifting dynamics, states have increasingly opted to do away with or severely limit awards of permanent alimony.  Mississippi is one such state.  In Mississippi, alimony will only be awarded in marriages lasting ten years or longer.  Texas passed these same reforms.  Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Utah are other states that have placed caps awards of permanent alimony, including limits on the length of time the breadwinning spouse can be forced to pay.

Factors for determining an award of permanent alimony

If you are a divorcing spouse in Mississippi who has been married for ten years or more, the following are a list of criteria that a court will look to in determining whether you should be awarded permanent alimony, and what the terms should be.  All courts will look at:

  • Each spouse’s income and expenses
  • Each spouse’s age, health, and earning potential
  • Each spouse’s needs, debts, and assets
  • Whether there are minor children in the home and childcare is needed
  • Standard of living during the marriage
  • Tax consequences of a alimony award
  • Fault or misconduct of a spouse
  • Wasteful dissipation of assets by a spouse

A court will weigh all of the above factors in determining a potential alimony award.  In addition to permanent alimony, courts can also award rehabilitative and reimbursement alimony.  Rehabilitative alimony is temporary alimony awarded to assist a divorcing spouse in re-entering the workforce.  Reimbursement alimony is designed to reimburse a spouse who made financial contributions during the marriage that enhanced the earning capacity of the other spouse.

Matthew S. Poole is a skilled, compassionate divorce attorney in Jackson Mississippi with experience seeking all means of alimony awards.  He will zealously fight for you to obtain the alimony award to which you are entitled.  Call Matthew today at (601) 573-7429 to schedule a consultation.

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