When a married couple initiates a divorce, the court may decide to award spousal support or alimony based on an agreement between the couple or the court’s determination that spousal support is necessary. Depending on where you live, this may be referred to as spousal maintenance, spousal support or alimony and the rules can be different regarding the factors that a judge may consider when awarding spousal support. The purpose of alimony is to minimize or eliminate any unfair economic effects of a divorce by providing continuing income to a lower wage earning spouse or a non-wage earning spouse.
In some situations, a spouse may have had to forgo a career or educational opportunities to take care of the family members and now needs time to develop relevant job skills in order to get back out on the market. Another reason that spousal support is commonly awarded is to continue the standard of living that was obtained and enjoyed during the marriage.
How is Spousal Support Determined?
In most states, child support is mandated due to very clear monetary guidelines, but this is not the same situation as it relates to spousal support. In fact, many courts have a great deal of discretion in determining whether or not spousal support should be awarded at all and if so, for how long and how much. Some of the factors that are considered in making determinations about spousal support include:
- The standard of living acquired during the marriage.
- The length of the marriage.
- The length of time that a recipient would need for training or education to become self-sufficient.
- The emotional state, age, the financial and physical condition of the former spouses.
- The ability of the spouse making the payments to still support himself or herself.
Although these awards can be hard to estimate, it can be even more difficult to determine whether or not a paying spouse would comply with the support order. If a spousal support order has already been stipulated and the person responsible for paying it has not been complying, you may need to consult with a knowledgeable family attorney about how to proceed with a case like this. Knowing how to protect yourself can be extremely important in this situation and the right divorce attorney is valuable.