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In Arkansas, alimony can be ordered on a temporary basis during divorce proceedings (Pendente Lite), and can be ordered for a temporary or permanent period of time after the divorce is final.
Before the final decree is issued, the court will make orders concerning the alimony of the wife or the husband and the care of the children, if there are any. Alimony will automatically cease in Arkansas if any of the following occur:
- The date of the remarriage of the person who was awarded the alimony; or
- The establishment of a relationship that produces a child or children and results in a court order directing another person to pay support to the recipient of alimony, which circumstances would be considered the equivalent of remarriage; or
- The establishment of a relationship that produces a child or children and results in a court order directing the recipient of alimony to provide support of another person who is not a descendant by birth or adoption of the payer of the alimony, which circumstances will be considered the equivalent of remarriage
To determine if alimony is applicable, the court will generally consider:
- each spouse’s current and future income potential
- the totality of each spouse’s assets, income, debt and what property they will have in their respective names
- what the marital standard of living was
- the length of the marriage and each spouse’s contributions to the marital estate
There are no laws or formulas for calculating alimony, but courts in this state have been known to use a benchmark 20% of the higher earning spouse’s income as sufficient spousal support. It is important to note that courts have great latitude in awarding alimony, and cases have been finalized where marital infidelity or financial malfeasance has resulted in that spouse being penalized with alimony due or assets distributed.
In general, the terms are set in stone until or unless there has been a material change in circumstances. Either spouse may petition the court for a modification, and the judge will rule on the merits. Unless the couple has agreed in writing, alimony ends when the recipient spouse remarries or enters into a relationship and has a child with a third party.
For the person paying the alimony, it becomes a deduction against regular income. To the recipient, alimony becomes taxable income, subject to regular income taxes. Coupes will occasionally agree to separate and not divorce for a period of time so that the receiving party can avoid paying taxes on the spousal support and be able to stay on the other’s health insurance plan.
A custodial parent will often want to know what kind of cash flow s/he can expect after the divorce. Arkansas family courts use child support charts provided by statute. Those charts must be revised every (4) years. Child support typically terminates at the child’s 18th birthday, but can be extended if the child’s age of majority occurs before high school graduation. Should a child have a disability, child support can be extended.
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