In the past, Mississippi courts would impose alimony in a divorce to punish a spouse for some misconduct. Now, alimony is ordered for different reasons.
Mississippi’s family law governs alimony, which is now referred to as spousal support. Courts award this support based upon the recipient’s need and the payer’s ability to pay. It may be ordered as compensation when one spouse supported the other spouse during their education.
Spousal support has changed with the rise of two-income families. It is intended to allow spouses to keep their standard of living after their marriage is over.
There are two types of spousal support. The first type, lump sum alimony, is a fixed and final dollar amount that may be paid once or over time. Courts cannot modify the amount of support. Death or remarriage does not affect it.
Periodic payment is the second type and may be modified. It terminates when either spouse dies or when the receiving spouse remarries or cohabitates with someone.
Courts must set a specific amount of support. When deciding the amount, judges will consider the spouses’ health and earning capacity, their income sources, the recipient spouse’s and children’s reasonable needs, and the paying spouse’s necessary living expenses.
Judges try to set an amount of support that provides the receiving spouse with something as close as possible to the standard of living they had during the marriage.
Courts may award alimony to the defendant in the divorce, but the amount must be reasonable, and that spouse would have to be destitute without that support. Paying spouses also have the right to have as normal a life as possible and a decent standard of living.
Recipient and paying spouses may petition courts to modify the amount of periodic payment support. But the paying spouse may not intentionally change their financial condition by, for example, quitting their job. Courts will, however, usually consider special or hardship circumstances and may reduce or eliminate their support obligations.
There are several types of consequences if a spouse does not comply with their support obligations. A judge can issue a contempt of court ruling against the delinquent spouse, require the posting of a bond, put a lien on their property, or garnish that spouse’s property.
Receiving spouses need to keep detailed payment records in case they need to take action to recover unpaid support.
Attorneys can assist spouses with seeking or paying fair and reason support. They can also help assure that payments are made.