Separate From Property Division
Spousal support, or “alimony,” is a separate matter from property division in a divorce case. Here’s why:
- Frequently, state laws dictate property division in a divorce, and courts might not have much leeway on who gets what.
- Spousal support, however, is often decided by courts on a case-by-case basis.
- Courts may also have wide latitude in how much spousal support they award to a divorcing spouse. Support or alimony could also range from “quite a lot” to “nothing at all.”
- Spousal support may also last only for a short amount of time or for years, and it’s generally left up to the courts to decide.
Purpose of Spousal Support
Spousal support is for specific purposes. For one, this type of support is supposed to limit unfair economic effects felt by a divorcing spouse who either earns no wages or earns less than the other spouse. At base, spousal support or alimony provides a continuing source of income to a spouse who can prove they’ll be at an economic disadvantage due to the divorce.
Justification for Support
If you’re thinking of divorcing your spouse and you intend to ask or petition the court for spousal support, you’ll have to justify why you need it. Reasons for spousal support can include:
- You may have chosen to forego a career to support your spouse.
- Now that you’re divorcing, you’ll need time to develop job skills or gain an education so that you can support yourself after your divorce. Needing time to “stand on your own two feet” is a frequent justification for spousal support.
- Spousal support may be necessary to continue the standard of living you enjoyed during your marriage, usually because:
- Divorce brings about changes in income, income tax, and other economic matters that will negatively affect your standard of living.
- As the lower-wage-earning spouse, you’ll need spousal support to help you cope with all the negative economic effects divorce brings.
Spousal Support Amounts
There are no monetary minimums or maximums to spousal support. After all, every divorce is unique, and each court shapes support levels as they see fit. Also, any spousal support you receive generally depends on a variety of other factors, including:
- The age of the divorcing spouses.
- The physical and financial condition of the spouses as well as their emotional state.
- The length of the marriage and how long the spouse seeking support would need to gain enough education and training to support themselves fully.
- The divorcing couple’s standard of living while they were married. A higher standard of living could mean more spousal support.
- Whether the support-paying spouse would be able to support themselves as well as the recipient spouse.
The above factors are not all-inclusive, and courts have broad discretion when deciding about any alimony or spousal support. Here are other important matters related to spousal support:
- Spousal support is separate from child support in a divorce. Child support is for the minor children in the care of the custodial parent. No specific requirements for its use are dictated by the courts when a divorcing spouse receives alimony or spousal support.
- Child support orders are frequently automatically enforced through wage garnishment and even the threat of jail when divorced spouses don’t comply with them. Typically, state or municipal agencies acting through the court’s authority enforce child support orders, and they can be quite vigorous when doing so.
- Invariably, some paying spouses end up not complying with their spousal support orders.
- Unlike child support, if your ex-spouse stops paying your spousal support, you usually must go back to court to get that order enforced, often through a contempt proceeding.
You Need an Attorney
Nearly 40 percent of US marriages will end in divorce. Also, the unfortunate fact is that divorces can often get messy, especially where the division of property, child support, and spousal support is concerned. It’s also rarely a good idea to handle your divorce personally, either, especially if your spouse has retained an attorney. Given how difficult it can be to “unwind” a marriage, you should always seek an experienced divorce attorney’s advice before you begin the process.