In a family law setting, spousal support may be issued in certain divorce or separation cases. Normally, spousal support may be required when one party is more financially stable than the other. Also, a support award may be more forthcoming where one party has contributed in certain ways to the relationship, such as acting as a homemaker, providing career/educational advancements, or contributing property during the relationship.

What Is Alimony?

Spousal support is also known as alimony. Of course, state laws will vary regarding spousal support terms, and each case of spousal support is evaluated separately on an individual basis. Spousal support or alimony is mainly awarded to the spouse who makes less money or is the stay at home spouse and the support is given to the spouse for a specific period of time until the recipient spouse becomes financially stable and more financially secure.

Alimony is based on who earned more money during the marriage and the role of each spouse. Alimony can come in different forms:

  • Permanent Alimony: Permanent alimony or spousal support will be paid to one spouse until the death of the spouse that is making the payments or until the recipient spouse remarries.
  • Temporary Alimony: Temporary alimony is payments made by one spouse for a specific period of time. Temporary alimony is paid to one spouse if the spouse will suffer financial hardship during the divorce process and the money is awarded to that spouse until they can recover financially.
  • Rehabilitative Alimony: Rehabilitative alimony is awarded to one spouses who needs financial assistance with college expenses or job training that they have to obtain if they are returning to the job force after the divorce in order to make a living. This is usually common for stay at home spouses who were dependent on the other spouses income during the marriage.

How Is Spousal Support Received?

Several steps must be taken before you can receive spousal support:

  • Determine a budget and find out how much spousal support you may be entitled to receive. Adding all your current necessary expenses such as mortgage payments, credit card bills, and consistent monthly payments can do this.
  • Find out the requirements and guidelines for spousal support for your state.
  • Meet with a family law attorney to discuss the spousal support you are entitled to.
  • File the necessary paperwork with the appropriate court. Spousal support can be awarded even before the divorce is final.
  • Separate your finances and move out of the family home to have a better case in independent living.

What Does Spousal Support Cover?

Generally speaking, spousal support is only intended to cover basic provisions that are needed to help the ex-spouse get "started" on their feet again after the divorce/separation. Thus, spousal support is intended for expenses like food, clothing, lodging, and basic travel. It is not intended to cover luxury items such as jewelry or vacation time. If needed, the parties can work out a spousal support agreement beforehand in a prenuptial agreement.

Do All Divorces Involve Spousal Support?

Not all divorces involve spousal support, especially if both spouses have stable incomes and can cover their own basic needs. Only 10-15% of all divorces include spousal support as part of the divorce decree.

When Does Spousal Support End?

Spousal support may end:

  • In accordance with the terms set forth in the spousal support order
  • According to the terms in a prenuptial agreement
  • When one spouse is deemed to be incapable or unable to make the payments
  • When the recipient spouse has become financially independent enough
  • With other factors, such as remarriage of the recipient spouse or cohabitation with a new partner

Spousal support can sometimes result in legal disputes, especially when it comes to termination of the support. In many cases, a separate proceeding may be needed to resolve disputes over termination of spousal support.

Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Spousal Support Issues?

Obtaining or modifying a spousal support order can often involve many different legal principles and concepts. You may need to hire a divorce lawyer if you have any concerns or issues involving spousal support. Specific family laws will vary by state, but a lawyer in your area can help you by providing advice and representing you in a court of law.