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Couple strategizes to avoid alimony termination

Although alimony awards vary significantly depending on the state in which the divorce took place and the circumstances surrounding the split, there is one general rule that applies to most spousal support: when the recipient spouse remarries, the payor spouse is no longer obligated to make alimony payments.

Certainly, this does not automatically apply in every divorce case, and family court judges often order alimony payments to continue (and sometimes even past) the death of one or both spouses. But in one recent case, the recipient spouse seems to have intentionally evaded the remarriage exception included in her spousal support award in order to continue receiving alimony after marrying another man.

In the case, the woman's ex-husband had been ordered to pay her $20,000 in spousal support every month following the couple's divorce. The woman eventually became engaged to and married another man. But this did not relieve the ex-husband's monthly spousal support obligation. Why?

According to court documents, this was because the woman did not technically marry her fiancé. Instead of declaring her love for him in a wedding, the couple decided to hold a commitment ceremony. So even though the couple walked down the aisle, said "I do" in front a rabbi and held a reception complete with cake and wedding gifts, they did not get a marriage license. Therefore, the court found, they were not married, and the woman's ex-husband was required to continue to make spousal support payments to her. It is unknown whether the woman will ever technically marry her fiancé.

Source: National Law Journal, "Appeals court rules that gown, invitations do not a wedding make," Leigh Jones, Aug. 27, 2012

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