Alimony: Records to Keep

Keeping records of spousal support or alimony payments is very important. Spousal support is the payment from one spouse to another of money for financial support following a divorce or as part of a separation agreement

The family court orders it either during a divorce or as part of the divorce decree. Temporary spousal support can be ordered when a couple has gotten an annulment.

Spousal support is separate from child support payments and marital property division. The amount of alimony or spousal support will not change how much child support the court orders or affect child custody.

Spousal support is generally mentioned in the divorce settlement agreement, even if only to say that either party is receiving no spousal support. But, spousal support is never automatically awarded. An ex-spouse must request it and file the proper court forms. A family court judge then decides whether spousal support is needed and in what amount.

Spousal Support Factors

A judge will consider many factors when deciding on spousal support. Judges look at the age and physical condition of the spouses, the length of the marriage, and the couple's standard of living. The judge will also consider whether one spouse left the workforce to care for the home and children. In some states, the judge may also consider evidence of domestic violence in the relationship. Spousal support may be for a certain period of time or until the former spouse becomes self-supporting, remarries, or some other event occurs.

Keeping records of spousal support or alimony payments is important. Suppose you need documentation showing how much you paid or accepted for the IRS or divorce case. The person paying spousal support may have to pay tax penalties and could even pay their ex-spouse for any undocumented payments.

Spousal support was tax deductible for the payor spouse and taxable income for those receiving spousal support payments until 2019. For those who divorced or signed a legal separation agreement before 2019, it's best that you keep records of all spousal support payments made and received for tax purposes. Should a former spouse challenge the spousal support agreement, having as much paperwork as possible is helpful. You should consult your spousal support order for more information or seek legal advice from a family law attorney.

Records To Keep for the Spousal Support Payer

The person who is paying spousal support should keep:

  • A list showing each payment made. This should include the check number, the address that the check was sent, and a copy of the canceled check. Most banks can give you a copy;
  • Be sure to write in the memo part of the check or money order which month the spousal support payment covers; and
  • Receipts for each payment made by cash, including the amount of spousal support paid. Be sure that your ex-spouse signs each receipt showing they received the spousal support payment and what month it was for.

As with all documents you may need in case of a tax audit, you should keep these records for at least three years when you file a tax return using the spousal support tax deduction. Some experts even say you should never throw away these records, as they show that you paid spousal support should your ex-spouse ever decide to challenge you in court.

Records To Keep for the Spousal Support Receiver

For each payment, the recipient should record the following:

  • The date you receive payment
  • The amount of the payment
  • The check number or other identifying information, such as the money order number
  • The account number from the check or money order that shows where the money came from
  • The name of the bank from which the check draws payment or the place where the money order was issued
  • A copy of the check or money order used for payment
  • A copy of any receipt you signed to accept a cash payment

Like the payer of spousal support, the person getting the payments should keep these records for at least three years in case the IRS comes knocking. Also, if your ex-spouse has stopped making spousal support payments, you can take your record to family court to show when your ex stopped making payments. A judge can demand that future support payments be made.

Remember, the laws changed for spousal support agreements entered into after 2019. After 2019, the spousal support payor can no longer claim a tax deduction for payments, and the receiving spouse does not need to include the money as part of their taxable income.

Get Legal Help to Better Understand What Records To Keep for Spousal Support

If you're facing spousal support issues in your divorce case, there are many factors that the courts will consider in deciding whether and how it's granted. An experienced divorce or family law attorney can help you figure out these issues and will be able to give you more advice about keeping records for spousal support. You can also explore Findlaw's Spousal Support (Alimony) Forms and Information by State to see examples of alimony and divorce forms.

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  • You may not need an attorney for a simple divorce with uncontested issues
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Don't Forget About Estate Planning

Divorce is an ideal time to review your beneficiary designations on life insurance, bank accounts, and retirement accounts. You need to change your estate planning forms to reflect any new choices about your personal representative and beneficiaries. You can change your power of attorney if you named your ex-spouse as your agent. Also, change your health care directive to remove them from making your health care decisions.

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