When a married couple believe their marriage has reached a bad place, sometimes they decide to take a break from their marriage to work on fixing it. When the couple separates in a manner legally recognized by the state, it is known as a legal separation.
Spousal support during separation
Similar to divorce, legal separation involves addressing marital assets, debts, child custody and visitation, child support and spousal support. When the two spouses can work together to reach agreement about the respective terms, they will often prepare and submit a legal separation agreement to the court. This is certainly a preferred route as it eliminates much of the tension, emotions, and costs when the couple’s disagreements result in the court making the decision.
When it comes to spousal support (also commonly referred to as alimony) it is usually considered a factor of divorce. In a legal separation, some states may have laws making it possible to obtain separate maintenance, which is similar to alimony (alimony involves no longer being legally married). Since states have the latitude when it comes to support laws, it is important to recognize that the laws will vary.
In essence, the premise is that one spouse will require some degree of financial support after the legal separation. Factors such as incomes, earning capacity, length of marriage, age, and other items are commonly reviewed to establish whether the support will be ordered, and if so, the amount and duration of payments.
The bottom line is that each state (assuming it recognizes legal separation) will have their own laws related to spousal support or maintenance, thus determining the outcome of a request for support is difficult. If a state does recognize legal separation and permits spousal support during the separation, the result will be tied to the needs of the spouse and ability to pay by the other spouse.