Alimony and Child Support: What Are Your Rights?

Only 15 percent of divorcing women are awarded any form of spousal support, or alimony, these days. Of those, about a third never receive a penny of what is legally theirs. And fewer than half of all women awarded child support ever receive the full amount. In those situations, what are your rights?


Let's start with alimony. That's the money one ex-spouse is legally required to give the other in a divorce or separation agreement. The Internal Revenue Service treats alimony payments as taxable income for the recipient and a deduction for the giver.

Alimony is quickly becoming a relic of the past as more women join the workforce. It's hard to argue that you can't support yourself if you have a job. But if you haven't worked outside the home in some time, you will probably be awarded some form of support for a limited period, depending on the length of your marriage.

If you've been married at least 10 years, chances are you'll be able to negotiate for a bigger payout. But if you have an MBA or law degree, for instance, the court will probably not be too generous. And if your ex is also going to be hit up for child support, your alimony payments will shrink accordingly.

If you do get alimony, it probably will only last until you remarry or go back to work full time. It might just support you through a stint back at school to learn new work skills. Some states, however, will award you alimony as a way to repay you for putting your husband through graduate school. So track down those tuition bills.

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