Spousal support, best known as alimony, is when one of the spouses gives financial support to the other spouse—like a monthly allowance.
This is determined by the court handling the divorce case. Usually, this is ordered when one party is more financially stable than the other, or when the other ex-spouse needs financial assistance to get back on their feet after the divorce.
This limits—if not eliminates—any unfair economic impact to the lower or non-wage earning spouse in a divorce.
Unless the former spouses agree on the support early in the divorce, spousal support is not the first thing that is discussed in the proceedings.
Determining who gets spousal support is also on a case-to-case basis. Not all cases are the same in terms of amount and duration, while other circumstances would not even include spousal support.
The amount to be given as spousal support is dependent on five main factors which are the recipient’s need, the payor’s ability to pay, length of the marriage, lifestyle when they were married, and age and health of both parties.
Other things checked at are both parties’ earning capacity, the assets and property owned by each person, debt background, children, shared business, and inclusion of a provision of spousal support in a prenuptial agreement.
Courts usually decide to award spousal support for couples who have been married for at least five years. Moreover, alimony is only temporary, or until the other party has become self-sufficient after the divorce.
Once the court awards spousal support, the order is irreversible and enforceable by law.
But this doesn’t mean it can’t be changed. There are special circumstances that are not present during the proceedings but can unexpectedly happen after the divorce.
Spousal support can be terminated for various reasons. One example is when the former spouse has decided to remarry or starts to cohabitate with a new partner who can provide financial support.
Another is when the spouse who provides alimony has encountered changes in his earnings, such as loss of work and cannot pay. Alimony payments, after all, are dependent on the ability of the person to pay.
If in the case there was no spousal support awarded in the divorce proceedings, but subsequently finds the need for alimony, there’s still a way. The ex-spouse needs to show evidence of changed circumstances—personal and financial—after the divorce.
Such an example is losing a job. The ex-spouse may have been working at the time of the proceedings but was laid off after the case was closed. The requesting spouse must be able to prove that alimony should be provided due to the unforeseen circumstance.
Meanwhile, a spouse choosing not to work may not entitle him/her to spousal support.
Going through the process of divorce is stressful emotionally and financially. Family laws also differ from state to state. The best way to prepare for such a life-changing process is to consult with lawyers and financial advisors to protect your interests.