What is spousal support? How is it determined?

Craig’s Answer:

Alimony, or “spousal support,” is payment from one spouse (“payor spouse”) to another (“supported spouse” or “payee spouse”) after they separate with plans to divorce. There are two types of alimony:

  • Temporary alimony is a payment from the higher earning spouse to the one who earns less. It’s “temporary” because it’s meant to provide financial support during the divorce proceedings.
  • Permanent alimony, or “long-term support,” is regular support payments from the payor spouse to the supported spouse. It’s supposed to place the supported spouse at or near the “marital standard of living” (the standard of living established during the marriage) after the divorce.

If the parties can’t come to an agreement on the amount to be paid, a judge will decide the amount of temporary alimony based on the spouses’ incomes, health insurance deductions and other earnings-related considerations.

Permanent alimony is based on a number of considerations. A judge will look at the whether a spouse’s earning capacity is sufficient to maintain his/her marital standard of living, considering a number of factors:

  • The marketable skills of the supported spouse and the job market for those skills.
  • The time and expense needed by the supported spouse to gain an appropriate education or training to develop those skills and the need for retraining or education to acquire more marketable skills or employment.
  • The degree to which the supported spouse’s earning capacity is impacted by periods of unemployment during the marriage which permitted the supported spouse to devote time to domestic duties.
  • How much the supported spouse contributed to the paying spouse’s ability to get an education, training, career, or license.
  • The paying spouse’s ability to afford alimony (considering the paying spouse’s earning capacity, earned and unearned income, assets and standard of living).
  • Both spouses’ financial needs based on the marital standard of living.
  • Their debts and assets, including separate property.
  • The length of the marriage.
  • The supported spouse’s ability to work outside the home while caring for any dependent.
  • The age and health of the spouses.

If you are considering a divorce and have questions or concerns about paying or receiving spousal support, contact our office at 760-722-7669so we can talk about your situation and how the law impacts you.

Posted in: Divorce, Family Law, Spousal Support / Alimony