What Determines Spousal Support in a Divorce?

Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

There are many factors considered when determining spousal support in a divorce. Wellbeing, age, and length of marriage all affect spousal support.

States will often refer to the Uniform Marriage and Divorce act when determining spousal support. This act underlines some basic considerations.

The earning capabilities of both spouses are a major factor in determining spousal support. The recipient spouse may require support because they left the workforce in order to take care of children.

In that case, spousal support will factor in the current potential earnings, the education of the recipient, and any work history. The time required for any training and education will also be considered.

What determines spousal support in a divorce

Savings and properties will affect whether spousal support is necessary. If property is given to the dependent spouse, this may negate the need for spousal support. 

Care and maintenance of any children is also an important factor, although spousal support is separate from child maintenance. The main consideration is if childcare could stop a recipient from joining or returning to the workforce.

Spousal support is often about ensuring a continuous standard of living. If one spouse has a much greater salary than the other, spousal support may be awarded to avoid a sudden economic hardship.

Especially if the lower earning spouse can prove they contributed to the marriage in ways other than financial.

Can a working wife get alimony?

A working wife may be able to receive alimony, but it will depend on multiple factors. Primarily, what the wife is earning, and what they could potentially earn.

Alimony is generally granted to ensure the financial stability of both parties in a divorce. If a wife is working and earning well, they may not receive alimony. 

However, this doesn’t mean a working wife is barred from receiving alimony. This will depend on the potential earnings of the wife. 

A wife may have left work or education in order to have and raise children. Should they then choose to enter the workforce, their earning potential could be quite low.

A wife with the training for a higher salary may only be able to find employment in a low wage position. Both time away from working and working lower hours to take care of children, can damage a wife’s earning potential.

If the wife left education or training to raise children, then she will also likely be working a job with a lower salary. 

Children aren’t a necessary factor. If a working wife can prove she sacrificed her career to support her spouse, this may also be considered for spousal support.

A working wife can get alimony, but she needs to prove her earning potential has been affected by the marriage.

Does length of marriage affect alimony?

Yes, length of marriage affects both how much is awarded in spousal support, and how long the support lasts for. Longer marriages are likely to result in a longer settlement.

Much of this is due to how entangled spouses’ lives and finances will become after a longer marriage. For a long-term marriage, it’s likely that one spouse will have relied financially on the other over the years.

In the event of divorce, the lower earning spouse will find it harder to maintain their current lifestyle.

If they aren’t working, or are working a job with a low salary, it will be harder to receive the education and training necessary to advance in a career.

If one spouse has spent many years not working in order to raise children, their earning potential is much lower.

A longer marriage will also likely result in a greater amount of shared property and savings. The division of these assets will affect any payment of alimony.

A lower earning spouse may receive a larger division of shared property, in order to maintain a lifestyle.

The length of marriage has a substantial effect on alimony. A marriage of less than five years ending is unlikely to result in a need for spousal support. A mid-range to long term marriage will often require a negotiation of alimony.

How do you fight spousal support?

If you are unhappy with your spousal support settlement, you will probably be required to petition the court.

It will then be your duty to prove why the order is unfair, based on clear and honest evidence. A lawyer will often be required, and the case can get complex.

A change or reduction to spousal support can be made if either spouse can prove a change in circumstances.

For example, if the recipient spouse remarried or began cohabiting with a partner, or has a newly increased income.

In these cases, it’s possible to prove that spousal support is no longer necessary for maintaining a lifestyle. Or, that the amount being paid is more than needed.

Spousal support may also be fought if the paying spouse can prove a loss of income. This may occur if the spouse has lost a job, become injured or disabled, or had their wage reduced.

However, if the paying spouse has purposely left a job, or taken a lower salary, then they will still be expected to pay the original amount. Unless they can prove there was a valid justification for leaving.

Fighting spousal support can be incredibly difficult, as the cause needs to be proven.

Before taking it to court, a spouse should have an honest and open conversation with their ex about the change in circumstance. Otherwise, it would be necessary to hire a lawyer.

How does a judge determine alimony?

A judge will consider a multitude of factors when determining alimony. They will decide both how much alimony should be awarded, and how long for.

This decision will generally be based on ensuring a continued standard of living for both parties.

When determining alimony, a judge will consider the earnings, the potential earnings, and any shared property or children.

Other factors, such as age, physical health, and mental health are also important. The length of the marriage will also be considered.

Duration of payment is also determined by a judge. A typical judge will likely decide alimony should last no longer than half the marriage. However, some states have specific guidelines for duration.

The rules for alimony vary from state to state, and there aren’t always clear and set guidelines. 

A judge will determine alimony based on the evidence that is presented to them. Although your lawyer will be able to give you some idea of the outcome, it’s ultimately up to the judge. 

The best way to get control of your alimony is by having a frank and open discussion with your spouse. If the divorcing parties are able to come to a decision and present this to the court, the judge will likely agree. 

Is alimony paid for life?

Alimony is only paid for life after the dissolution of a long term marriage. This is given when it’s determined the dependent spouse is unlikely to be able to return to the workforce. Even permanent alimony can end, if the dependent spouse remarries.

There are different types of alimony awarded, and most of these do not last for a lifetime. Short term, or rehabilitative, support is rewarded when a shorter marriage comes to an end.

Short term alimony will have a set end date. It may also be given as one lump-sum. Rehabilitative support is intended to support the spouse as they return to work. This may be for an indefinite amount of time, and subject to review.

Temporary alimony is for couples who are separated and starting divorce proceedings. The couple can write and sign an agreement about temporary support without needing to go to court

Reimbursement alimony is given if a spouse supported the other financially while they were in training or education.

The supportive spouse took on this role assuming they’d benefit from future earnings. Reimbursement alimony is a form of compensation.

Permanent alimony is only rewarded when a couple divorces after at least ten years of marriage.

It’s given under the assumption the dependent spouse won’t be able to earn. If the dependent spouse remarries, or even begins romantic cohabitation, permanent support can be terminated.

What are the grounds for spousal maintenance?

Spousal maintenance is awarded when it’s determined the dependent spouse would have insufficient income or means to support their lifestyle after the divorce.

Spousal maintenance often rewards the non-financial contributions a spouse may have made toward a marriage.

There are grounds for spousal maintenance if a person can prove that they would struggle to find work, or if their current salary would leave them unable to fund their life.

If a spouse has left education or a career to support children or the marriage, they have grounds for spousal maintenance.

Spousal support is rarely permanent, and long-term spousal support is only occasionally awarded when a marriage of ten years or more is dissolved. 

Spousal maintenance, spousal support, and alimony are all terms for the same concept. Alimony is considered by some to be an outdated term, where spousal support and spousal maintenance are growing in usage.

Spousal maintenance is often decided by a judge. The judge will consider the financial earnings, both actual and potential, of both parties.

They’ll also consider the properties of the couple, and any savings. The judge will then determine an amount and a duration.

Divorcing couples may prefer to discuss spousal support before going to court. If a couple can come to an agreement, then the judge will probably order this settlement.

What is reasonable spousal maintenance?

Reasonable spousal maintenance will leave both parties with sufficient funds to cover everyday expenses. Spousal maintenance considers the earnings of both parties, to come to an agreement that leaves them both satisfied.

Reasonable spousal maintenance is unlikely to exceed 30 to 40 percent of the higher earners’ income. It’s uncommon for the higher earner to be left with less than 40 percent of their income after paying both spousal maintenance and child support. 

Any child support payments are also factored into spousal maintenance. Child support and spousal maintenance payments are both used to ensure the spouse can continue to provide for themselves and their family.

A reasonable spousal maintenance payment will also account for any shared savings and properties. A judge may choose to award properties to a dependent spouse, rather than an alimony payment.

However, spousal maintenance is also awarded depending on the potential earning of a spouse.

If a spouse is underemployed, the amount of maintenance they pay can be calculated based on how much they could earn, rather than what they actually earn.

In this case, the paying spouse will need to prove why the lower income job was a necessary choice (stress, for example).

Reasonable spousal maintenance will support the dependent while leaving the paying spouse with comfortable earnings. 

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