Getting Back on Your Feet: Rehabilitative Alimony in Mississippi

As I explained in an earlier post, alimony is still alive in Mississippi, and it is definitely something a person should consider when contemplating a divorce. Again, when people hear the word “alimony” they typically think of permanent alimony. But, what many people do not know is that Mississippi recognizes temporary spousal support as well, such as rehabilitative alimony.

Mississippi courts have recognized rehabilitative alimony, also known as “transitional” or “time-limited” alimony, since 1995. As the Mississippi Supreme Court recently noted, rehabilitative alimony “is an equitable mechanism which allows a party needing assistance to become self-supporting without becoming destitute in the interim.” Pierce v. Pierce, 132 So. 3d 553, 565 (Miss. 2014) (quoting Hubbard v. Hubbard, 656 So. 2d 124, 130 (Miss.1995)). In other words, rehabilitative alimony is temporary, transitional monetary support awarded to a needy spouse while he or she attempts to re-enter the workforce and obtain a viable income to support himself or herself following the divorce. As a result, in many instances, rehabilitative alimony is available to a spouse who put his or her career on hold while taking care of the marital home; for example, the stay-at-home spouse. Lauro v. Lauro, 847 So. 2d 843, 849 (Miss. 2003). However, in some cases, rehabilitative alimony has been awarded to a divorced spouse who maintained a full-time job during and after the marriage. See Brady v. Brady, 14 So. 3d 823, 826 (Miss. Ct. App. 2009).

Rehabilitative alimony payments, like permanent alimony, are made in periodic or monthly installments. These payments are set by the chancery court for a fixed time period. So, the chancery court has the ultimate discretion to determine what constitutes an adequate “transition” period and how long a spouse must pay rehabilitative alimony; although, payments are usually required for no more than a couple of years. In any event, the same broad range of factors Mississippi courts analyze in granting permanent alimony are considered when courts award rehabilitative alimony to a divorced spouse.

Further, rehabilitative alimony payments may be modified–increased or decreased in amount and extended or shortened in duration–by the chancery court upon a showing of a material change in circumstances by either party. In fact, rehabilitative alimony may be converted to permanent alimony under special circumstances. See Oster v. Oster, 876 So. 2d 428, 421-32 (Miss. Ct. App 2004). And like permanent alimony, there are a few ways rehabilitative alimony payments may terminate: (1) lapse of time or duration set by the court, (2) upon the death of either the payor (spouse ordered to make alimony payments) or payee (spouse receiving alimony payments), or (3) upon remarriage, and in some instances cohabitation, of the payee spouse with another person.

Depending on the circumstances, Mississippi courts may elect to award a spouse rehabilitative alimony as opposed to permanent alimony. Rehabilitative alimony is a viable, yet distinct, substitute to permanent alimony available to divorced spouses who are looking for temporary spousal support while they get back on their feet. Rehabilitative alimony may come into play when contemplating divorce, and an experienced Mississippi divorce and family attorney knows how to handle it. If you or a friend should need professional assistance in seeking alimony or any other divorce-related matter, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of M. Devin Whitt for a free consultation at (601) 607-5055.

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