Spousal support also goes by the name of alimony, although the latter term is no longer preferred. In either case, it refers to money that one spouse pays to another in order to alleviate a financial hardship that results from a divorce.
You may have some mistaken ideas about spousal support, especially if you are contemplating, or in the process of, your first divorce. Here are some important facts that you should know about spousal support.
Spousal Support Is Not Always Required
Spousal support differs from child support in that the latter is typically mandated by the state in every divorce in which the couple has children. Spousal support is not a state requirement. Rather, the court makes the determination on a case-by-case basis, looking at the circumstances of each individual couple. What this means for you is that, while it is possible that the court could require you to pay spousal support following your divorce, it is not a foregone conclusion.
Spousal Support Is Not Necessarily Forever
There are certain circumstances, such as when the recipient spouse is unable to work due to disability, that spousal support could become a lifelong commitment. However, this is the exception rather than the rule, and your spousal support obligation is usually temporary. Most states will discontinue your obligation in the event that your ex-spouse gets remarried, but this is actually only one circumstance in which the arrangement may come to an end.
Spousal support is meant to be a rehabilitative measure. In other words, it is meant to allow the recipient spouse time to do whatever is necessary to become self-supporting. That might mean getting a college degree or receiving vocational training. Once your ex-spouse is able to start supporting himself or herself independently, it may mean an end to your spousal support obligation.
Several Factors Go Into Calculating Spousal Support
The court will decide whether or not spousal support is called for based on your individual circumstances as a former couple. To calculate the monthly amount, five factors are typically taken into consideration:
- Age and health of both you and your ex
- Your ability to pay
- Recipient spouse’s need
- Length of marriage
- Previous lifestyle
If you have been married for a relatively short period of time, you may not have to pay spousal support at all. Should the court still require you to pay spousal support for a short marriage, the amount is likely to be lower than it would be if you had been married for decades.
Divorce can be a complicated process, and spousal support is only one consideration. A family law attorney may be able to guide and advise you during this challenging time. They would be happy to arrange a consultation for you when you contact a law office.