What You Need to Know About Spousal Support

Divorce and separation are unfortunate and painful. This is especially true for spouses who are financially dependent on the other spouse. There are, however, ways to prepare yourself to handle finances after divorce or separation. Read on to find more information about spousal support.

What Is Spousal Support?

Spousal support is issued in connection with cases that involve legal separation and divorce. Spousal support is also commonly known as alimony. It is when one spouse pays the other spouse a certain sum of money.

The sum of money is paid on a monthly basis. In some instances, the courts require this payment to be made. The instances include when one of the spouses is more financially stable than the other spouse. It is also done when the other party requires financial assistance to start life after separation or divorce.

A support award is also provided when one party has contributed to the relationship in certain ways. This includes providing educational or career advancements, acting as a homemaker, or contributing property during the relationship.

Different Forms of Alimony

Spousal support or alimony varies in each state. Alimony is usually awarded to a spouse who makes less money. The support is given for the stay at home spouse so they become financially stable and secure.

Alimony is determined based on who earns more money during the marriage. The role of each spouse is also considered.

Permanent Alimony

Permanent spousal support or alimony is paid to one spouse until the death of the other spouse. It is also paid until the spouse receiving the support remarries.

Temporary Alimony

Temporary payment is made to one spouse for a specific period of time. The temporary alimony is paid to one spouse who will face financial hardships during the divorce proceedings. The payment is made until the spouse is able to recover financially.

Rehabilitative Alimony

This alimony is awarded to spouses who require financial assistance with job training or college expenses. This will enable them to return to a job after the divorce is complete and make a living.

This type of alimony is common for stay at home spouses. It is also paid to those spouses who are dependent on the other spouse’s income during the marriage.

How is Spousal Support Received?

The different steps that should be taken before spousal support can be received include the following:

  • Determine a budget. You should find out how much spousal support you are entitled to receive. Add all current necessary expenses. This can include credit card bills, mortgage payments, and other consistent monthly payments.
  • Find out the guidelines and requirements for spousal support in your state.
  • Meet with a reputed family law attorney. Discuss the spousal support you are entitled to receive with the attorney.
  • File all necessary paperwork with the appropriate court. Even before the divorce is final, spousal support can be awarded.
  • Move out of the family home and separate the finances. This will enable you to live independently.

What Does Spousal Support Cover?

The intention of spousal support is to provide basic provisions that are necessary to help the ex-spouse get back on their feet after separation or divorce.

It is intended for expenses such as clothing, food, basic travel, and lodging. It doesn’t cover luxury items like vacation time and buying jewelry. A spousal support agreement can be reached by the parties in a prenuptial agreement.

Determining the Amount of Spousal Support

If both parties decide not to file a marital separation agreement in court, then the agreement is treated as a private contract between the spouses. This means a spouse can choose not to receive spousal support.

If the marital separation agreement is filed in court, then the judge will decide on the spousal support amount. This is done in accordance with the laws of the state.

Different states use different contract laws when upholding the terms of the agreement. Depending on the contract law concepts, it is determined if the support amount is unfair or if the spouse was coerced into accepting the agreement.

The spouse who receives the payment should pay tax on it. The spouse who is making the payment will be able to get a tax deduction.

The amount of spousal support that was agreed upon by both the spouses can be changed. This can be done if both of them agree to a different amount.

If the separation agreement was filed in court, then court approval is needed to get the amount of spousal support changed.

Do All Divorces Involve Spousal Support?

One of the important things to remember is that not every separation or divorce involves spousal support. This is especially true if both spouses have stable and good incomes and don’t need money to cover their basic needs.

You will be surprised to know that only 10% – 15% of all divorces include spousal support as an integral part of the divorce decree.

Who Is Entitled to Spousal Support?

Spousal support is usually decided on a case by case basis. This is because each case is different. In most cases, only individuals who have been in long marriages (over five years) qualify for spousal support.

The court takes several factors into account when determining spousal support.

  • Earning capacity of each spouse.
  • Property and assets owned by each spouse.
  • If one party is involved in significant debt.
  • If the parties are involved in a shared business.
  • Contribution of each party to a relationship.
  • If the parties have a prenuptial agreement with spousal support provisions.
  • Other factors include physical and mental health conditions.

How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

Spousal support ends in the following circumstances:

  • In accordance with the terms set forth in the spousal support order.
  • As per the terms in the prenuptial agreement.
  • When one spouse is unable or deemed incapable of making the payments.
  • When the recipient spouse becomes financially independent.
  • Other factors include remarriage or cohabitation of the recipient spouse with a new partner.

In some cases, spousal support can result in legal disputes. This is especially true when it comes to termination of the support. A separate proceeding is required to resolve disputes that arise due to termination of spousal support.

Can Spousal Support Be Modified?

The spousal support orders that are issued by the court are final and enforceable by law. In certain special or unique circumstances, the orders can be modified.

If one party is experiencing extreme hardships or when the spouse receiving payments is cohabitating with another partner who supports them financially, then the order can be modified or terminated.

How is Spousal Support Awarded?

Spousal support is awarded after a separation or divorce proceedings, when one of the spouses mutually agrees on the payment. The judge looks at all the relevant factors before deciding on the spousal support that is necessary to support one spouse.

The support is usually awarded to a spouse who makes a low income or has been out of work during the marriage. The support is needed so they can get back on their feet financially.

The judge can order the spouse to pay the spousal support in one lump sum amount or do monthly payments. The judge decides on this aspect depending on the ability of the spouse to make one lump sum payment or monthly payments.

Depending on the ability of the spouse to pay, the spousal support that is awarded can also be modified. If the spouse loses their job and cannot pay, then the amount is modified. The spousal support amount can also be modified if there is a significant increase in the income of one spouse.

Requirements for Spousal Support

The requirements for spousal support include:

  • The payments that are made should be in check or cash. Paying off debt or assets are not considered payments for support.
  • The payments should be provided in a divorce or written agreement.
  • Agreement for payment or payment made before the divorce is not considered.
  • Spousal support or alimony cannot be claimed during the year joint tax returns were filed.
  • If both spouses live in the same house, then alimony payments cannot be made during this time.
  • If one spouse marries or dies, the payment stops.

What Happens if Spousal Support Terms Are Violated?

If the spousal support terms and conditions are violated, it can result in legal consequences.

  • Contempt order from the court.
  • Negative effect on credit scores.
  • Negative effects on other rights and privileges.

A good divorce lawyer will be able to help you if any terms and conditions of the spousal support are violated.


You will require the assistance of a divorce lawyer for spousal support. The lawyer will provide more information for obtaining and modifying a spousal support order as it involves different legal concepts and principles.

You will need an experienced divorce lawyer if you have any issues or concerns involving spousal support. Family laws vary by state, and the lawyer in your area will be able to provide you with advice and represent you in a court of law.

When filing for the spousal support, you require proof in the form of statements, documents, and other things. The qualified divorce lawyer will help in submitting proof. Contact an attorney today so you can get all the assistance you need for the spousal support process.

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