What is spousal support and will I get it in my divorce?

What is spousal support and will I get it in my divorce?
Spousal support, formerly known as alimony, is money paid by one party in a divorce to the other party when the property award is not enough to adequately support the party and any children in his/her care, after the court weighs certain factors and determines that the party paying is able to do so.  It’s one a way of “leveling the playing field” between divorcing parties when one party has a significant earning advantage over the other.  The traditional case being where the husband works and provides financial support for the family, while the wife stays home and cares for the children and oversees running of the the household.  Both roles provide value to the marriage.
Spousal support can be paid in one lump-sum, or over time typically in monthly payments.  Spousal support can be temporary or short-term, or it can be permanent or long-term.  Spousal support can be made modifiable upon a showing of proper cause, change in circumstance or by some “triggering” event such as remarriage or death of the party receiving payment.  Or spousal support can be non-modifiable, meaning that under no circumstance can the party paying spousal seek to change or modify the payments.  It is important that language in your judgment of divorce is very clear and very specific about the parties’ intent with respect to spousal support, particularly if the parties want it to be permanent and non-modifiable.
Unlike child support, spousal support is not required absent a finding by the court that it is not, nor is it calculated pursuant to guidelines and a formula in the same way that child support is.  There are, however, programs available that will generate a spousal support recommendation based on certain factors and information, but that recommendation is typically used only as a starting point for negotiations regarding spousal support.  Courts are not bound to follow the recommendation.
Although spousal support could be paid by men and women alike, it is still more common for a man to pay a woman spousal support in a divorce.  However, as women have entered the work force and their earning potential has increased, awards of spousal support have decreased compared to years past.  It is no longer an assumption that spousal support will be paid in a divorce case; rather, attorneys must analyze the the circumstances of each case, considering the same factors that the court does, in order to really determine if their case is appropriate for spousal support.  
Factors that courts must look to in deciding whether spousal support is appropriate include:
-Past relations and conduct of the parties
-Length of the marriage
-Ability of the parties to work
-Source of and amount of property awarded to the parties
-Ages of the parties
-Ability of the parties to pay spousal support
-Present situation of the parties
-Needs of the parties
-Health of the paries
-Prior standard of living of the parties
-Whether either party is responsible for the support of others
-General principles of equity  
When it comes to determining the amount of spousal support that may be paid, courts consider:
-The duration of the marriage
-The parties’ contribution to the joint estate
-The parties’ ages
-The parties’ health
-The parties’ stations in life
-The parties’ necessities and circumstances
-The parties’ earning abilities
The days of long-term or permanent and non-modifiable spousal support are, more or less a thing of the past.  In our current society it is rare to find a case that sets-up well for this type of award.  Nowadays what we more commonly see is short-term or temporary spousal support that is usually modifiable under certain circumstances and intended to help the party receiving payment get on his/her feet.  Perhaps the party receiving spousal support is going to go back to school and will need financial support in order to do so.  Perhaps the party receiving spousal support has been out of the workforce for a period of time and needs re-training or to take a job that pays less in order to work his/her way back up the ladder in his/her field.  There are circumstances in which spousal support is clearly an appropriate option to consider and it can be incredibly helpful, arguably necessary in fact, for certain people following a divorce.
If you have questions regarding spousal support, let our knowledge and experience help guide you through the decision-making process.  Give us a call at 866-yourrights or visit us on the web at www.yourrights.com


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