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How do Mississippi courts determine the amount of alimony?

In many Mississippi divorces, one of the most contentious issues is the payment of alimony, or as it is currently known, spousal support. During the early part of the state's history, courts used alimony to punish marital misbehavior. Philandering husbands were often ordered to pay alimony to their presumably faithful wives. Since the end of World War II, however, courts and the legislature have change their views on alimony and its purposes.

In determining whether to order one spouse to pay support to the other spouse, and in determining the amount of such support, courts examine the circumstances of the parties, included their need for support and their ability to pay support. Courts will look at each party's personal assets and their respective abilities to earn a living and maintain the standard of living that the couple enjoyed during the marriage.

Courts can award two types of spousal support: lump sum and periodic payment. The judge will take into account the health and earning capacities of each party, sources of external income, necessary living expenses, and estimated tax liabilities. The court may also consider other issues raised by the parties during the divorce process. The court must state a specific amount of alimony in the divorce decree. Either party may ask the court to modify the award of alimony, but a paying spouse cannot purposely reduce his or her economic circumstance for the sole purpose of reducing the obligation to pay spousal support.

Anyone who is considering commencing divorce proceedings may wish to consider consulting with an experienced family lawyer. Such a consultation can provide a helpful overview of the case and an estimate of the likelihood that the court will require one spouse to pay maintenance to the other.

Source: Mississippi Bar Association, "How is the amount of alimony determined?," accessed on March 27, 2017

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