The Importance Of Spousal Support In Divorce Cases

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Spousal support (or alimony) is essential in many divorce cases. Typically, spousal support payments last for about half the length of the marriage. Spousal support can be ordered by a judge or agreed to outside of court on a temporary, short-term, or long-term basis. Reimbursement alimony is sometimes awarded to help pay for training or higher education costs.


When a judge awards alimony (also known as maintenance), it is intended to help the spouse with less income continue living at a standard similar to the one that existed during marriage. To determine the need for support, the court considers many factors, including the ages and health of both parties, their ability to earn money, and the contributions made to the marriage by each party. Reimbursement alimony is also available to compensate a spouse who supported the other’s career by paying for school and training that increased their earning potential. Spousal support may be awarded on a temporary or permanent basis. The duration of support depends on several factors, including the length of the marriage and whether there is a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that provides for a specific end date.

Rehabilitative alimony is often awarded to spouses for a specific period so the recipient can get the skills and education to become self-supporting. Permanent alimony to a spouse is rarely awarded and is reserved for situations where the spouse can never gain financial independence due to age or other circumstances.

Ability to Pay

In many cases, a judge will order temporary alimony. The goal is to help the spouse cover their living expenses while they find employment. For example, if a person leaves their career to care for children or a home, they may need time to get back into the workforce and get up to speed with job market expectations. If one spouse has been out of the workforce for an extended period, the court might award rehabilitative alimony. This enables the spouse to obtain training and education to increase their earning potential. The court could also award this support for a set amount of time so the spouse can become self-sufficient in less time. In some situations, a judge might decide to award permanent alimony. This is very rare, though. The judge would consider the length of the marriage, as well as the ages and health of the parties. The judge would also look at any prenuptial or postnuptial agreements.


Spousal support typically only lasts for a short amount of time. This is because the goal is not to provide financial assistance for a spouse indefinitely but rather to bridge the gap until the recipient can support themselves at the same level as before the marriage ended. For this reason, judges typically consider the following factors when deciding on a duration for alimony payments: both spouses’ ages and health status. Older or sicker people may have more difficulty financially supporting themselves. The current standard of living includes housing costs, food and clothing expenses, and other relevant expenses. The ability for future earnings includes educational qualifications, training, career development opportunities, and projected income potential.


Unlike child support, which sometimes increases for cost-of-living adjustments, spousal support orders rarely change. The reason is that a court will only consider changing an order if there are significant changes in circumstances. One of these changes might be a dramatic increase in the paying spouse’s taxable income, such as from an inheritance or stock options. Other changes could include the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage, which has caused judges to reconsider the amount and duration of spousal support awards. For example, some courts have been awarding rehabilitative alimony that lasts for a limited period and provides the recipient spouse with money to receive training to become self-supporting. Also, judges have been hesitant to award proper permanent alimony since the tax consequences for payors and recipients are severe. A permanent alimony award is typically reserved for lengthy marriages ending in divorce where the former spouse is unlikely to gain financial independence due to age or health considerations.


Divorces are difficult for everyone involved, and there is a lot of money at stake. Before you get into a case of becoming divorced, work with a top lawyer and figure out what alimony and child support will work out to be.