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How Is Spousal Support Determined?

How Is Spousal Support Determined?

When a married couple gets a divorce, depending on the economic condition of the lower earning spouse, the court may make the spouse with higher income to pay for the spousal support, to perk up the other spouse’s living standard.

Why you may be asked to pay alimony

The major reason you may be asked to pay alimony is to reduce any inequitable economic effects of the divorce by financially helping the less earning or non-working spouse.

Part of the good reason is that one spouse may have decided to abandon work in order to take care of the family. Another reason for alimony is to maintain the standard of living that the lower earning spouse enjoyed with the ex-spouse while they were still married.

How is the spousal support determined?

Opposed to child support, which is mandatory in a good number of states in keeping with certain monetary guidelines, courts have extensive discretion in estimating whether to award spousal support and, if applicable, for how long and how much. The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, which is the basis of spousal support in many states recommends that courts take the following factors into consideration when determining spousal support awards:

  • The age, physical condition, emotional state, and economic situation of the divorced spouses
  • The duration of time the recipient needs to be educated or trained enough to be self-sufficient
  • The partner’s standard of living during marriage
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The capability of the paying spouse to support the recipient as well as himself or herself

Alimony and support orders

Even though it is difficult to calculate the amount to be paid as alimony, another factor that is difficult to estimate is the compliance of the paying partner to the judicial order. The recipient can return to court to file a contempt proceeding to force the ex-spouse to make payment.

How long should spousal support be paid?

Alimony is frequently paid to help the lower earning spouse get fully rehabilitated and become able to support himself or herself.

If the divorce ruling does not specify any termination date for the spousal support, the paying spouse must continue to pay the support until when the court determines it is the right time to stop. However, the majority of cases, the support should end as soon as the spouse receiving support gets re-married.

Death of the paying spouse does not automatically cancels the payment of spousal support, if the low income spouse is not yet able to get a gainful employment at the death of the other partner due to health or age related issue, the court may order further support from the payer’s estate or life insurance earnings.

Spousal support trends

In the past, the majority of spousal supports are paid by former husbands who are the breadwinners of family to their former wives. However, with the current change in marriage culture where the management of the home is a shared responsibility between the husband and the wife, the old tradition of men paying and women being the recipients of spousal support is gradually reducing. There is currently more and more spousal support being imposed on ex-wives towards their ex-husbands.

A family law attorney may offer you free legal case review

The issue of spousal support usually arises in a lot of divorce proceedings, whether through out-of-court settlements, or in a court proceeding. A family law attorney with knowledge of spousal support may be able to help you to understand your options, your possibility of paying or receiving alimony.


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