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Who Qualifies for Spousal Support?

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When Is Spousal Support Issued?

Spousal support is generally issued in connection with cases involving divorce or legal separation. Also known as alimony, spousal support is where one spouse pays the other ex-spouse a certain sum of money, usually on a monthly basis. Courts may require this in instances where one party is much more financially stable than the other, and the other party needs assistance in beginning life after the divorce or separation.

Who Qualifies for Spousal Support?

Spousal support is issued on a case-by-case basis, and each case will be different in terms of the spousal support analysis. In most cases, only persons who have been involved in a marriage of a “longer duration” (usually over 5 years) are qualified for spousal support. Also, the court will take into account several factors when making the support determination, including:

  • The earning capacity of each spouse
  • The assets and property owned by each person
  • Whether one party is significantly involved in debt
  • Whether the parties were engaged in a shared business
  • Each party’s contribution to the relationship (for instance, as a homemaker, or in terms of joint careers/education)
  • Whether the parties have worked out spousal support provisions in a prenuptial agreement
  • Various other factors, such as mental and physical health conditions

Certain factors can disqualify a person from child support, such as a history of abuse or a history of certain charges on one’s criminal record.

Can Spousal Support be Modified?

Spousal support orders that are issued by the court are final and enforceable by law. However, they can sometimes be altered due to unique or special circumstances that become present later on. An example of this is where the spouse receiving support payments begins cohabiting with another partner who begins supporting them financially. Another example is where one party is experiencing extreme hardship. Spousal support can also be terminated for various reasons.

How Is Spousal Support Awarded?

Spousal support is usually ordered after a divorce when either the spouse mutually agree on the payments or when the judge looks at all the relevant factors and decides that alimony or spousal support is necessary to support one spouse. Spousal support is generally awarded to a spouse who has been out of work during the marriage or makes a lower income and needs the support of the other husband even after the divorce.

The judge could order one spouse to pay the alimony payments in one lump sum if the spouse has the ability to do so or make monthly payments. Alimony payments can also be modified depending on the ability to pay. For example, if one spouse gets a significant raise in income or loses their job and cannot pay, then the spousal support is also modified since it changes the ability to pay.

What Are the Requirements for Spousal Support?

There are several requirements in order to satisfy for payments to be considered spousal support:

  • The payments that are being made must be in cash or checks. Assets and paying off debts is not considered payments for support
  • The payments must be provided for in a divorce or a written agreement
  • Payments made prior to divorce or agreement for payments are not considered
  • Alimony or spousal support cannot be claimed during the same year joint tax returns were filed
  • Alimony payments cannot be paid during the time both spouses live in the same residence
  • The payments must stop if one spouse marries or dies

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer for Spousal Support Issues?

Filing for spousal support can require proof in the form of many documents, statements, other items. You may need to hire a qualified divorce lawyer in your area if you need help with a spousal support order. Your attorney can help review the terms to ensure that your needs are covered. Also, your lawyer can assist you in the even that you need to file for a modification of a spousal support order.

Photo of page author Kourosh Akhbari

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 05-24-2017 04:14 PM PDT

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