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Alimony: Records to Keep

Alimony: Records to Keep

Alimony is determined by a family court judge on a case-by-case basis. The trend is away from alimony orders, but courts still issue judgments for alimony after long marriages, if one spouse earned significantly less than the other, or when one spouse left the workforce to care for children or the household.

Alimony is Now Treated Like Child Support for Tax Purposes

Alimony used to be tax-deductible to the paying spouse, and taxable income to the receiving spouse. But the tax overhaul of 2018, initiated by the Trump Administration, significantly changed the way alimony is considered by the IRS.

  • Alimony (or spousal maintenance) paid from January 1, 2019 onward is NOT deductible from the income of the paying ex-spouse. This mirrors child support payments, which are also not deductible.
  • Income received as spousal support is NOT included as taxable income on the tax forms of the receiving ex-spouse, just like child support.

This tax change does NOT apply to alimony resulting from divorce or separation agreements issued before January 1, 2019.

Tax Changes and Alimony Modifications

Many people think that alimony can't be modified. That is not true. Under certain conditions, an alimony order can be changed. If your alimony award was dated before January 1, 2019, it retains its previous taxable status (deductible for the payor, income for the receiver) unless:

  • The terms of the alimony payment changed and
  • The new order states that the alimony payment is not deductible by the payor spouse or included in the income of the receiving spouse.

Records to Keep for the Alimony Payor

Because the alimony-paying spouse can no longer deduct their alimony payments on their tax return, it is no longer critical to track alimony payments for tax purposes.

You may want to continue to track payments in order to prove that you have complied with the court order for spousal support. Some experts go so far as to say that you should not throw these records away until the order is completed.

An alimony payor should retain this information:

  • A document showing when each payment was made, including the check number and the address the check (or payment) was sent to.
  • A receipt for each alimony payment paid in cash. Be sure that you have the other person sign and date the receipt.

Records to Keep for the Alimony Receiver

The former spouse who receives alimony is no longer required to pay taxes on that income. The only reason that a receiving spouse may want to document their spousal support payments is if the payor has a history of missing payments or partial payments.

A simple spreadsheet or account ledger could be used to track alimony payments. Include the following information:

  • The date the payment was supposed to be received
  • The amount that was supposed to be received
  • The amount of the payment that was actually received
  • The check number (or another piece of identifying information such as the money order number)
  • Where the money order was issued from
  • A copy of the check, money order, transfer, or cash receipt

If your former spouse has stopped making alimony payments, you can take this record to court to demand that past payments be made.

Get Legal Help with Alimony

If you have questions about getting alimony, modifying a previous spousal support order, or getting the money you are due, call an experienced local divorce attorney for help.

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Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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