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Do I need to keep records of alimony payments?

Alimony may be a dirty word to many Californians, and for the traditional Vietnamese household, it carries the same connotations as the word “divorce.” But it serves a purpose, one that aims to balance the scales when a couple breaks up and each person strikes out in a different direction. Whether you parted on speaking terms or had a knock-down, drag-out fight in court, alimony payments are not so much about your feelings for your ex-spouse as they are about your income. As a factor in both ex-partners' standard of living, these payments deserve the same attention as any other source of income.

FindLaw suggests that both ex-partners keep records of alimony payments. The payer should keep these specific documents:

  • For cash payments, have the other person sign a receipt that includes the payment amount and what month it is for
  • Copies of checks; use the memo area to record the monthly payment is for
  • Master list with the date of each payment and check number. If you mail the check, include the address it was sent to, along with the month it is for

For those paying alimony, a record may save you some grief with the IRS, so hold onto your notes for at least three years. Even more important, your records may be needed should your ex ever bring suit against you for non-payment.

In some cases, alimony payments may be a significant part of the recipient’s income. That means you need to account for it to the IRS because the payer is certainly reporting it. A recipient should keep these records of each payment:

  • Name of bank, account number from which the payment is drawn, date of receipt and payment amount;
  • Identifying number of the money order, along with the name of issuer;
  • Copy of the money order or check, as well as each receipt you sign for;
  • Date of receipt and amount of payment.

For tax purposes, keep these records for at least three years. Should you wish to dispute payments still owed, your records may help support your case to the court.

This general information is provided for your education, and should not be taken as legal advice.

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