In order to be treated as deductible alimony, payments made from you to your spouse (or ex-spouse) must meet all of the following requirements:
- The payments must be in cash, check, or money order.
- The payments must be received by or on behalf of your spouse under a divorce or separation document (including a final decree, a temporary court order, or a written separation agreement between the two of you). Payments you make to third parties on behalf of your spouse, such as for your spouse's medical expenses, housing costs, taxes, tuition, etc., can qualify.
- You and your spouse must not opt out of alimony treatment by stating in the divorce decree that the payments aren't to be considered alimony for federal income tax purposes.
- If you and your spouse have received a final decree of divorce or decree of separate maintenance, you may not be living in the same household when the payment is made. If the payment was made under temporary orders and the decree is not yet final, it is okay to be living in the same home.
- The payor's obligation to make payments must end when the recipient dies, and there must be no liability to make any payment in cash or property as a substitute after the death.
- You and your spouse may not file a joint tax return with each other for the year.
- If any portion of the payment is considered by the IRS to be child support, that portion can't be treated as alimony.
The IRS also has devised some tests to distinguish alimony from child support.