When we think of divorce as it is portrayed in TV and movies, it can be easy to bring to mind images of two angry spouses at each other’s throats who wouldn’t offer the other a cup of water if they were dying of thirst. And, to be sure, that happens in real life all the time. But what is more common is that two people who have spent a significant amount of their life together have come to the conclusion that they just can’t make their marriage work, and they want to get the divorce over with as painlessly as possible without getting treated too unfairly. In many such cases, one spouse moves out and so both are adjusting to paying living expenses on their own, and a spouse earning less money (or no money) asks the other spouse for voluntary weekly or monthly payments - essentially voluntary spousal support or alimony without a court order. It may feel like the right thing to do (or the only option to keep the peace in a painful time), but there are downsides to consider before agreeing to paying alimony voluntarily.
You Will Not Be Able to Claim a Tax Deduction
When you make alimony payments, you are entitled to receive an above-the-line tax deduction for payments made at the end of the year, which means top earners may get up to 40% of their alimony payments back in the form of a tax refund. But the rule only applies to court-ordered alimony, and voluntarily-made payments cannot be claimed.
The Other Spouse May Delay in Proceeding with the Divorce
You might be trying to get the divorce done with as quickly as possible to move on with your life, and so voluntarily paying alimony may feel like a tension-soothing act to keep the process moving, but this can backfire. If one spouse is receiving what he or she wants in the form of alimony without even filing an action or responding to divorce action developments, then that spouse may not be motivated to speed the process along.
You Will Not Necessarily Get “Credit” For These Payments in a Divorce
Which leads us to the next point. If you make a year of “alimony” payments to a spouse without a court order, and your spouse suddenly he or she decides wants three times as much and goes to court demanding this, the fact that you were freely paying the other spouse will not necessarily earn you any credit with the court in a final judgment, and may even invite the argument that you were “underpaying” the other spouse in an attempt to deprive the other spouse of his or her rights under the law.
Work With an Attorney to Create an Uncontested Settlement Agreement Instead
You and your spouse may be trying to “keep lawyers out of it” with the thought that you will avoid expense and drama and delay by doing this yourselves, but this approach can end up costing you far more in the long run when you fail to follow your state’s procedures for obtaining a divorce or when the other spouse rethinks the “keep lawyers out of it” approach and ends up taking advantage of the situation.
Rather than making voluntary payments, you and your spouse should consider entering right into an uncontested settlement agreement, overseen by an experienced family law attorney. At Kearney | Baker in Pasadena, we offer a low-cost flat-fee uncontested divorce package for situations just like this, which help you and your spouse works toward an official, reliable resolution to your marriage that will provide you with benefits and certainty, and not set you up for a rude awakening down the road.
Pasadena Family Law Attorneys at Your Service
At Kearney | Baker, our Pasadena family law attorneys have 60 years of combined experience in reaching positive outcomes on behalf of our clients in divorce matters. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your circumstances.