5 Common Questions About Spousal Support

Among the many decisions that couples must address when getting a divorce is spousal support (also known as alimony). Next to child custody, it is one of the most emotionally draining issues that couples must tackle during a divorce. It makes sense to hire an experienced spousal support attorney to help you navigate the process.

What is spousal support? It is a court-ordered financial assistance paid from one spouse to the other. It’s quite common to see judges award spousal support in divorce cases where the couple was married for a long period of time or where one spouse gave up a career to stay at home, raise the children and handle most household matters.  

What is the goal of spousal support? Granted to a spouse who is less financially independent than the other spouse, these payments are designed to reduce the financial impact of a divorce and help to support a lifestyle somewhat similar to what the person enjoyed during the marriage.

What factors does the court use to determine the amount of spousal support? While state laws vary, most judges consider several criteria, including:

  • The duration of the marriage.
  • Both spouse’s health and age.
  • Earning potential of both spouses.
  • Earning capacity of the spouses during the marriage.
  • Education levels of both spouses.
  • The couple’s assets and debt.
  • Whether minor children are involved.
  • Any facts the court may decide is relevant.

What expenses does spousal support cover? The payments are typically aimed at ongoing expenses, such as shelter, food, clothing, transportation, utilities, etc.

Are there different kinds of spousal support? Yes.Most states offer various kinds of spousal support, including:

Rehabilitative Support: Often awarded to spouses who don’t yet have the job skills or education to earn enough money to support themselves. This is usually a temporary form of support.

Temporary Support: Awarded to the lower-earning spouse to cover basic costs during the divorce process after the other spouse has moved out of the marital home and before the divorce is finalized.

Lump-Sum Support: A one-time up-front payment (a fixed amount that can’t be modified) given to the lower-earning spouse calculated to cover all future expenses.

Permanent Support: Awarded to the lower-earning spouse that does not end until the recipient remarries or dies. Some states end payments when the spouse cohabitates with a new partner.