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Spousal support, also known as alimony or maintenance, refers to court-ordered payments made by one spouse to the other after a divorce. The purpose of spousal support is to help the receiving spouse maintain their previous standard of living after the divorce.

There are several factors courts consider when determining spousal support, including the incomes of both spouses, the length of the marriage, and the age and health of each spouse. Generally, the higher-earning spouse will be required to pay support to the lower-earning spouse. However, in some cases, even the lower-earning spouse may be ordered to pay support.

Types of Spousal Support

There are several different types of spousal support:

Temporary Support

This is support ordered while the divorce is pending. It helps cover living expenses during the divorce process. Temporary support usually ends when the divorce is finalized.

Rehabilitative Support

This temporary support is intended to help the receiving spouse become self-sufficient by obtaining education or training. For example, if one spouse gave up their career to raise children, rehabilitative support can help them refresh their skills and re-enter the workforce.

Permanent Support

Also known as maintenance, permanent spousal support is awarded in long-term marriages where one spouse is unable to become fully self-supporting. Permanent support typically continues until the receiving spouse remarries or either spouse passes away.

Reimbursement Support

This compensates one spouse for supporting the other through an advanced degree or certification. If the lower-earning spouse worked to support the family while the other pursued an education, the degree-holding spouse may have to reimburse them.

How is the Amount and Duration Determined?

There are no hard-and-fast rules on how much or how long spousal support should last. The court has discretion based on factors like:

– Length of the marriage – Courts consider longer marriages as needing more support.

– Age, health, and employability of both spouses – An older or sick spouse may need more support.

– Earning capacity and education of both spouses – The higher-earning spouse typically pays support.

– Standard of living established during marriage – Support aims to maintain pre-divorce standards.

– Child custody arrangements – Primary custodial parents may get more support.

– Tax consequences – Awards may be adjusted so neither party is unduly burdened.

– Marital property division – Assets divided can affect needed support.

– Reason for divorce – The spouse responsible for the failure of the marriage may pay more.

Modifying or Ending Spousal Support

The amount and duration of spousal support can be modified if there are substantial changes in circumstances. This could include a job loss, major health issue, or retirement. Unless the parties agree otherwise, support typically ends upon the death of either spouse or the receiving spouse’s remarriage.

In conclusion, spousal support aims to help the financially disadvantaged spouse maintain their standard of living after divorce. The court determines the fair amount and duration based on numerous factors. Support orders can be modified for major life changes.


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