A divorce leaves so many things in question, especially money. During divorce proceedings, the judge may award spousal support, but what is it? What does it cover? These spousal support facts can help make those questions clear.
Spousal support is a term many states are using instead of alimony, but they are the same. Whatever you call it, it is an allowance of money or property from one spouse to the other to pay for necessary expenses.
Unlike child support, which is there for the children’s benefit, spousal support is there to help you. Together, these payments help you and your children maintain your standard of living after you and your ex separate.
When Can Spousal Support Be Ordered?
Courts award spousal support to help a spouse who sacrificed their ability to earn income for the marriage. If you gave up your job and career to take care of the home or family, spousal support helps you maintain your living standard, especially during such a sudden change. Spousal support is also awarded for a legal separation if the court deems it necessary.
The court can also award temporary spousal support, also known as spousal support pendente lite or temporary alimony, to cover the cost of living during the divorce proceedings, including rent, food, utilities, medicine, and transportation.
The court weighs everyone’s income, the payor’s ability to pay, the payee’s needs, and the couple’s standard of living to decide if temporary spousal support is necessary and how much is needed. A temporary order will automatically end after the divorce or legal separation orders become final. Permanent spousal support may not last forever, but it goes on past the divorce finalization.
Determining the Total
Despite all the exact processes that go into a divorce, there is no precise formula for determining permanent spousal support. Like temporary spousal support, it comes from the court deciding what is fair based on the ability to pay, needs, and standard of living.
Probably the most important spousal support facts are the following fourteen points, which most courts consider in their decision:
- The income of the spouses, including income derived from property awarded in the divorce proceeding
- The relative earning abilities of the spouses
3. The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the spouses
- The retirement benefits of the spouses
- The duration of the marriage
- The extent to which the custodial parent can be employed
- The standard of living of the spouses
- The education of the spouses
- The relative assets and liabilities of the spouses, including any court-ordered payments
- The contribution of each spouse to the education, training, or earning ability of the other
- The time and expense necessary for the spouse who is seeking spousal support to acquire education, training, or job experience so that the spouse will be qualified to obtain appropriate employment
- The tax consequences, for each spouse, of spousal support
- The lost income production capacity of either spouse that resulted from their marital responsibilities
- Any other fact that the court expressly finds to be relevant and equitable
How Long It Lasts
To add to spousal support’s fluidity, it can end after a certain length of time, a specific event occurs (such as remarriage or death of one of the spouses), or it can continue indefinitely. The preference is to terminate the support on a specific date (it’s easier for them that way), but the courts usually decide this on a case-by-case basis.
The court may order spousal support for a specified amount of time and review it later to see if the spousal support should continue as is, be modified, or be terminated. In most states, a permanent spousal support order must contain specific provisions to allow the court to make adjustments.
Even then, the court can only modify spousal support if there has been a change in circumstances that couldn’t have been anticipated. These changes include:
- An involuntary loss of income
- Remarriage of the spousal support recipient
- Entering into a relationship that would constitute a valid marriage
- Payer’s increased ability to pay
Whether you are about to go through a divorce or are about to have your support adjusted, knowing these spousal support facts can only help you and your family.
You should consult with your lawyer and accountant about how spousal support applies to your situation. Information provided here can not be construed as legal or accounting advice.