Spousal Support: The How, What, and Why!

Over the past 20 years, marriage and divorce rates have decreased. As a result, the rate of spousal support payments has decreased.

Because of the rareness of spousal support, many don’t understand how it works and if they are entitled to it. So, how does spousal support work? Read on to find out.

What Is Spousal Support?

Spousal support, otherwise known as alimony, is court awarded after a married couple gets a divorce. The award is either based on the court’s decision or the agreement of the couple.

Alimony’s purpose is to limit the unfair effects of a divorce. For example, the lower-wage-earning spouse or non-wage-earning spouse will have provided continual income.

The justification behind alimony is that the spouse chose to end their career to support the family. Before developing the skills they need to support themselves, they’ll have protection through alimony.

How Does Spousal Support Work?

How does spousal support work? Spousal support is decided on a case-by-case basis. This is not the same as the division of marital property.

There is broad discretion when determining whether to award someone spousal support or not. Some factors the court will take into consideration include:

  • The physical condition, emotional state, and age of the ex-spouses
  • The earning capacity of the spouses
  • The assets owned by each spouse
  • Any debt that one or both parties may have
  • The amount of time needed for the recipient to become self-sufficient
  • The standard of living of the couple during the marriage
  • The length of time the marriage lasted
  • The ability of the ex-spouse to support themselves and the recipient

It is important to note that spouses who have been married for less than five years probably won’t qualify for spousal support. Most states’ spousal support statutes are based on The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act.

Estimating Alimony

Although estimating spousal support payments can be tricky, it may be even harder to get the payer spouse to agree to the support. Alimonies get awarded through court order when the ex-spouses cannot agree.

Calculating spousal support depends on several different factors. It is important to understand the laws in your state regarding alimony to estimate it accurately.

Court-ordered spousal agreements are final and enforced by the law. Yet, under some special or unique circumstances, alimony may require modification. The most common modification is the termination of the agreement.

The payer will provide a specific amount of money to the recipient every month. However, if the spouse can pay a lump sum, the judge may order them to pay it all at once.

Spousal Support Payment Lengths

Most alimony is temporary spousal support because it acts as a rehabilitative tool. The recipient will only receive alimony until they can become self-supporting. This may be until they get a job or receive training to compete in the job market.

A divorce decree can be created and stated when the termination of payments is. However, if this is not specified in the decree, the courts will provide the termination date.

Spousal support after a divorce will also end if the recipient gets remarried to someone else.

If the payer dies, the payment term is not always the next step. If the recipient’s spouse cannot get a job because of factors out of their control, like age or health problems, the court may continue payments through the payer’s estate or life insurance policy.

Spousal Support Requirements

Knowing how to get spousal support involves understanding the requirements surrounding them.

For payments to be considered spousal support, they must be made with checks or cash. Some believe that paying off debt or assets is alimony, but this is a myth.

The payments or lump sum amounts must be specified in a written agreement of some kind. This could be in the divorce agreement. Any payments made before the divorce agreement don’t count as alimony.

Spousal support cannot be claimed the same year a joint tax return was filed. If you filed taxes together during the same year you filed for divorce, you won’t be able to receive alimony until the following year. You also cannot receive alimony if you are living in the same residence as your ex-spouse.

Hiring a Lawyer for Spousal Support

If you come across issues with spousal support, it is always recommended to hire a lawyer. Yet, you may want to hire a lawyer either way because they have expertise in this area and can help you with any concerns.

When you file for spousal support, you may have to provide documentation, statements, etc. An attorney can keep track of this and ensure you have everything you need to file.

Before agreeing to the terms for alimony, have your lawyer read over them. They will note that all of your needs are covered.

Down the line, you may need to file for a modification of the spousal support order. A lawyer can help you in this case as well.

Whether or not the issue of alimony leads to a settlement out of court or a divorce trial, having a lawyer by your side can benefit you.

Adjusting to Life After a Divorce

So, how does spousal support work? It works to provide stability for one party of the divorce until they can take care of themselves.

Alimony doesn’t come up in every divorce, but it plays a key role in adjusting to life after many divorces. If you weren’t the breadwinner of the relationship, you may be entitled to alimony payments.

Both parties in the divorce could benefit from having a lawyer who can tell them their options if they owe or receive alimony. Use this guide to understand your relationship with alimony.

For more legal advice, check out the other articles on our blog.

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