The purpose of spousal support (alimony) is to financially assist one of the spouses to live independently after a marriage ends. It is to ensure that the earning spouse does not take advantage of the non-earning spouse and is compensated for the non-financial contributions made during the marriage.

Alimony is meant to provide support for the recipient spouse to achieve their professional or educational goals and be self- sufficient. Courts look to several factors in awarding spousal support. The primary reason to award spousal support is to allow adequate time for the receiving spouse to establish themselves and become financially independent. 

Can Spousal Support be Terminated?

Yes, if certain conditions are satisfied spousal support will terminate. These conditions may include: 

  • A date set by the judge for several years in the future; 
  • Children are no longer minors;
  • Death of either spouse; 
  • Remarriage of the spouse; 
  • Court finds that termination is necessary for fairness and to avoid a harsh result; and
  • Some other significant event occurs which convinces the judge to re- evaluate and consider a change. 

You and your spouse can both agree on the amount of alimony and the duration. But if there is a conflict and no agreement can be made, the judge can set the terms for you. 

How Can I Avoid Future Conflict Between the Spouses in Terms of Payment of Alimony?

The paying spouse can actively record the support payments made to avoid future conflict. For example, the paying spouse can keep a list of each payment that includes the date, check number and address it was sent to. The receiving spouse should also keep a record of the checks received. For example, the receiving spouse can keep a photocopy of the check to verify the amount received. These habits can drastically affect both spouses in the future if a conflict arises about alimony payments.

Can Spousal Support be Modified?

Yes, it can be modified if the court considers there has been an undue hardship due to drastic changes in the financial circumstances of the paying spouse. There are several options available on how to modify a spousal support order

The couple themselves can come to an agreement regarding the spousal support order and have the judge sign off on it. The judge will also decide on what terms or circumstances can the order be later modified. For more future flexibility, you and your spouse can create a provision in the spousal support agreement to change the amount only if:

  • Both ex-spouses are in agreement;
  • The court orders the modification;  
  • Either of the spouse’s income changes; or
  • Ether spouse becomes disabled.

Even if there is no agreement on the modification in the spousal support order, most courts allow a change if there is a significant change of circumstances. However, some states may not allow any modification. Therefore, it is crucial to research the local state laws regarding modification of spousal support. 

What Are Some Restrictions Regarding Spousal Support?

States differ on the restrictions of spousal support. There are limitations as to how much can be awarded as spousal support. Generally, most states determine the calculated amount based on several factors that include:

  • The recipient spouse’s financial needs;
  • The payor’s spouse income and ability to pay;
  • Duration of the marriage;
  • Lifestyle during the marriage; 
  • Age and health of the spouses;  
  • Non marital assets; 
  • Any dependent minor children;  
  • Length of time the recipient spouse needs to establish their education or training to become self- sufficient and;
  • Need to care for other family members besides children.  

Recently, some states have been trying to encourage more financial independence to cut back on some spousal support that is not financially feasible for the payer spouse. Furthermore, few states have been limiting or denying spousal support if the receiving spouse was the cause of the break up. They have been considering grounds such as adultery, abandonment, and marital misconduct. Some spousal support is temporary and will only be awarded for the time period the recipient spouse needs to gain financial independence. 

What if the Spousal Support Order is Violated?

If the paying spouse violates the spousal support order, it is sometimes possible to get the court to intervene. The court may issue an order of contempt and demand the paying spouse pay the amount. Additionally, the court can order jail time and other legal/criminal consequence for failure to pay spousal support. 

Do I Need to Contact a Lawyer for Help with Spousal Support Restrictions?

Spousal support arrangements can get complicated quickly if the spouses are hostile towards each other. However, contacting a family lawyer can help to mitigate those issues and draw up a plan that is beneficial and feasible for both paying and receiving spouse. It is important to reach out to the local family lawyer because laws differ state to state. Therefore, obtaining a family lawyer can assist in arranging the spousal support plan after the divorce.