Who may be Entitled to Receive Spousal Support

Who may be Entitled to Receive Spousal Support

Alimony or spousal support is one spouse’s lawful obligation to give monetary support to his/her former partner after separation or divorce. Formerly, spousal support consisted in the husband paying his former spouse. Modern day practice, though, has given way to gender parity, so that the support is now supposed to be provided by whoever has financial strength and stability.

Rules regarding this important divorce-related issue and the factors that help determine how much support is supposed to be given and who ought to receive it vary from state to state. There are types of alimony, namely:

  • Temporary Alimony or Alimony Pendente Lite: this type of alimony, which is usually paid even while the divorce case is still pending, is awarded to one spouse but only the spouses are already living separately;
  • Rehabilitative Alimony: this type of alimony serves as a re-education or re-training support that will help one spouse find a good-paying job so as to become self-sufficient;
  • Permanent Alimony: this court-ordered regular payment (usually monthly) is to enable the recipient spouse to continue to enjoy the standard of living that he/she enjoyed before the divorce. This ends, however, when the recipient spouse remarries or dies, or if the court modifies its order; and,
  • Lump Sum: if the spouse who is supposed to provide spousal support has been deemed as totally irresponsible in ensuring the monthly payment to his/her former partner, then the court may order this single lump sum alimony payment instead.

On the factors affecting decisions on alimony cases, a number of a court’s consideration include: duration of marriage; age of the spouses when the divorce began; income of the spouses and their financial prospects in the future; health of the divorcing parties; and, fault in the marital breakdown.

More than 10 years of civil union or marriage usually merits permanent alimony. Young spouses also tend to get short-term support which will allow them get on with their lives. In states that use marital fault, like extra marital affair, the guilty party’s right to an alimony (if he/she is the one supposed to receive financial support) is automatically removed.

Failure to pay spousal support can merit the contempt of court. The punishment accompanying this failure can include fines, imprisonment, wage garnishment, liens on property and seizure of earnings, such as earnings from tax refund.

In the website of the law firm Higdon, Hardy & Zuflacht, the following is said about spousal support:

One of the most important concerns following a divorce is how to avoid lessening either party’s quality of life. Spousal support is an important aspect of ensuring each spouse can continue living as they choose. Often, when a married couple separates, the party earning a higher income must pay support to the other party, either temporarily or permanently.

Courts consider several different factors when making decisions regarding spousal support. For that reason, it is critical to have a competent team of attorneys on your side representing you in these matters.

A court can order one spouse to pay spousal support to another if the spouse seeking support is unable to adequately provide for himself or herself and if one of the following applies:

  • One spouse is found guilty of committing domestic violence against the other or their child;
  • One spouse is unable to financially support themselves due to a physical or mental disability;
  • The marriage lasted ten years or longer and the spouse seeking support is unable to earn enough to provide for their basic needs; and,
  • The spouse seeking support has custody of a child from the marriage who requires special care due to a physical or mental disability.

Unless the court finds a history of domestic violence, it will begin with a presumption against an order for spousal maintenance, which means the court will assume spousal support is not necessary until proven otherwise. The spouse seeking support must be able to prove that he or she has put in sincere effort to find a job and otherwise be able to care for his or her needs before seeking support.

If the court does find that spousal support is appropriate, the next step is to determine the amount of support that is necessary. The judge will consider the contribution each spouse made to the other, including financial resources; education level; employment skills; acts of adultery; and payments to the other’s education or employment. The amount of spousal support will vary greatly depending on these factors, but a monthly payment cannot exceed $5,000 or 20% of the paying spouse’s average monthly income, whichever is the lesser amount.

How long the marriage lasted determines the duration of the support. However, if circumstances such as a disability exist, the spouse paying support could be required to pay that support for as long as the condition exists.