What is spousal support? How is it determined? This article explains what it is, how it’s calculated, how long it lasts and more.
What is Spousal Support?
You’ll often hear spousal support and alimony used interchangeably. That’s because they are essentially the same thing. They are both payments for the support of an ex-spouse ordered by the court. This can include a number of things, and every case is a bit different.
For example, one person may need to provide spousal support to cover just about everything: the house, car, food, clothing, etc. However, another individual may only need to provide enough money to cover the ex-spouse’s car or mortgage payment.
How is Spousal Support Determined?
It depends on the current status of both the contributor and recipient. If the recipient has a successful career and is able to take care of themselves, the amount will likely be a lot less. However, if the recipient is raising kids full-time and unable to have a career, the amount will likely go up.
Another factor is current lifestyle. What is the current lifestyle of the recipient? Do they live in a 5 bedroom house with a swimming pool in an expensive part of town? Or do they have a lower-priced home out in the suburbs or a rural area? These factors come into play as well, because the goal of the court is to avoid major lifestyle impacts.
These are just a few factors. There’s even more to consider here:
- Education level of the recipient: Are they educated enough to have support themselves and their dependents, or will they need to go back to school?
- Age and physical condition of the recipient
- Financial condition (i.e. assets available)
- Length of the marriage
- The ability of the contributor to both support the ex-spouse and him/herself
As you can tell, there are many gray areas with spousal support. It doesn’t have the same kind of strict guidelines we see with child support.
How Long Must Spousal Support be Paid?
Again, this is a bit of a gray area. It’s common for spousal support to be rehabilitative. That means it only lasts long enough to help the ex-spouse get back on their feet. That could mean finishing their education, landing a good job, etc.
Sometimes it lasts a bit longer though. If the divorce decree doesn’t have specific termination criteria then the payments must continue until the court orders otherwise. One example that can cause the court to order a change is marriage. If the recipient remarries, the court usually determines the spousal support no longer needs to be paid.
One thing to keep in mind is that times are changing. It used to be that spousal support was almost always a man sending financial support to his ex-wife. There is a trend of more women giving spousal support to men since the number of women in the workforce has increased. There is also a trend of more same-sex cases, where the ex-spouse with the highest income has to provide spousal support to their ex-spouse.
Courtesy of Cuselleration