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How to Get Spousal Support

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What?s Spousal Support?

Spousal support, or alimony, refers to monetary payments that are made from one ex-spouse to the other in connection with separation or divorce. Spousal support serves the purpose of allowing the ex-spouse to get a start on living independently as they make their transition from married life back to single life.

Spousal support laws differ widely from state to state. Support orders are generally only issued in connection with a legally valid marriage or civil union. In some cases, spousal support orders can get complicated due to overlapping issues like child support or disputes over marital property. Most divorce or separation cases automatically involve a consideration of spousal support.

What Is Some Advice on How to Get Spousal Support?

When seeking spousal support from an ex-partner, it’s important to follow certain steps and guidelines to ensure that you won’t be disqualified from an alimony award. Some of these guidelines include:

  • Be cooperative and communicative with the other party- being “difficult” will only make the legal process more complicated
  • Make sure you communicate through your lawyers- in a divorce case, as in any legal proceeding, the parties may be required to make communications to one another through their lawyers. This will also help your own lawyer be informed of any new developments in the case
  • You may need to furnish documentary evidence of your monetary needs- this may include pay stubs, bank accounts, tax returns, and any other documents that might be needed to establish your income
  • Do you have a support agreement?  In some cases, the couple may have formulated a support agreement or a prenuptial agreement before the divorce. In that case, the agreement might act like a contract and can be converted into a formal support order
  • Don’t violate any court instructions or laws- while this may seem obvious, you’d be surprised at how many people violate court orders, judge’s instructions, etc. These can hurt your case and may harm your chances at obtaining a favorable spousal support award

Lastly, don’t be afraid to be honest in terms of what you actually need financially, but at the same time don’t exaggerate. The court has no way of knowing your needs unless you inform them and support your claims with the necessary paperwork. So, make sure you indicate where you have needs and where you can be able to work through things on your own. 

What If My Ex Won’t Pay?

This is also a common situation. If your ex-spouse is not making good on spousal support payments, you may have a legal claim against them. Remember, it is much better to have a support agreement approved as a court-issued order so that it’s legally enforceable. That way you can use the formal support order as evidence of what you’re entitled to.

One thing you can do is to request a modification of the original support order. It may simply be the case that your spouse is willing to pay, but has faced changed circumstances in their life. A slight modification of the order might allow them to pay what is best for the situation, rather than them missing payments entirely. You may also be able to request back payments for missed payments. These types of requests and modifications can be complicated and generally require the assistance of a lawyer.

Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Spousal Support?

Understanding how to get spousal support is necessary for a fair agreement between you and your ex-spouse. You may wish to hire a lawyer if you need assistance in obtaining a spousal support order, making a modification, or obtaining back payments. A qualified lawyer in your area will be able to assist in your submitting your claims and requests with the court, and can represent you during the formal proceedings. 

Photo of page author Ken LaMance

, LegalMatch Law Library Managing Editor and Attorney at Law

Last Modified: 01-15-2014 10:18 AM PST

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