Groups » Five Essential Points about Spousal Support to Bear in Mind

There may be one or more circumstances that probed you to file for divorce. But, you should not simply walk out of a marriage without taking what is rightfully yours.

Alimony or spousal support is a monthly payment made by one spouse to another after the divorce is finalized, in accordance with either a settlement agreement or a court decision. You and your spouse can try to work out a property settlement yourselves. This primarily involves deciding which spouse will pay spousal support, and how much it will be.

This form of financial aid is designed to help the lower-earning spouse or a spouse who has compromised more on the professional front to take care of the household. The amount can help him/her to get through the divorce process and transition into being a self-supporting individual.

Spousal support can be classified into two broad categories – short/long-term, and permanent support. The former is valid till a certain termination date (say, six months to a year, as ordained by the court), while permanent support is applicable only in special cases where the recipient is entirely incapable of being financially independent. In some cases, a spouse may also receive temporary support before the divorce is finalized.

Here are a few points about spousal support that you should know before filing for a divorce:

1) Spousal Support Isn’t for a Lifetime

Alimony is not a lifelong financial aid provided by an ex-spouse after divorce. In fact, it is often termed as rehabilitative, in so much that a spouse only needs to provide financial support so long as it is necessary for the recipient spouse to receive professional training/formal education for a job and become self-reliant.

In case the divorce decree does not specify a termination date for the spousal support, it should be considered that the payer must continue until the court orders otherwise.

According to divorce laws in most states, alimony awards end if the recipient remarries. The termination date need not automatically expire upon the payer’s death. In that case, if the recipient spouse is still unlikely to obtain employment, due to age or health considerations, the court may adjudge that further support be provided from the deceased’s property or life insurance policies, if any.

2) Duration of Marriage Is a Deciding Factor

Divorce cases are generally heard in family courts, and may be taken to higher courts if the ruling announced by the lower court isn’t agreeable to one of the parties. Even if you have signed a settlement agreement with your spouse, it is better to opt for legal representation to deal with these proceedings.

The court decides the time duration for spousal support payments based on the review of arguments made by both partners. The duration of making the payments typically last for about half the length of the marriage, if it’s less than 10 years. For instance, if the marriage lasted six years, spousal support will have to be paid for three years.

For longer marriages, the judge may not set a specific time for spousal support. Your attorney can help you establish your case for the amount of time you’re seeking, and how to ensure that you are receiving or paying the alimony.

3) Validity of Spousal Support

If your spouse is entitled to spousal support from you, and the amount has been approved by the court, you will generally have to pay the stated amount each month. However, there are certain factors that come into play when deciding the termination date.

First, the amount needs to be paid until the date set by the ruling judge, which may be several years in the future. Second, you may be exempted if your children (if any) no longer need a full-time parent at home.

After a reasonable amount of time, if the judge determines whether or not your ex-spouse has made sufficient efforts to become self-supporting, then the spousal support may or may not be terminated accordingly. In case you are about to retire from your professional career, then you may appeal the judge to modify the amount to be paid.

4) Spousal Support is Approved Based on Needs

You may believe that you owe a certain amount to your ex-spouse because you are earning far more than he/she is. The decision on the alimony amount is entirely dependent on the court. The ruling judge will make a decision on what amount you need to pay based on various factors, and also the state’s divorce laws.

The financial needs of the recipient spouse play a key role in this decision. He/she can be entitled to a greater amount for investing a lot more time in managing the household and family. Losing out on career opportunities for the sake of the marriage will be kept in mind when deciding the amount.

One way that couples can avoid going to court is by using mediation. As part of mediation, the former spouses discuss the various possibilities and come to a solution on spousal support that may work for them.

Speaking about mediation, an Orlando family law lawyer said, “The mediator’s role is to help the parties work together to understand each other’s positions, help them see when they may need to be willing to compromise, and help them reach an agreement that ultimately serves both of their best interests.”

5) Legal Action May Be Taken If the Spouse Doesn’t Pay Alimony

Once the judge has announced the alimony order, the payer needs to give the required payments as dictated. If he/she fails to do so, the recipient spouse can choose to go for an earnings assignment order or a contempt proceeding in court. In extreme scenarios, if no payments are made to the receiver despite the court order, then the payer is liable for jail time.

Spousal support should be treated as a temporary measure to keep yourself from running into financial trouble immediately after a divorce. Whether you are the payer or the recipient, you should bear in mind that you are ultimately responsible for your financial future. Think through your career goals and the subsequent receivables, in terms of salary and benefits, before finalizing the alimony amount. Seeking professional guidance from a divorce attorney can help you decide the kind of spousal support that you should be opting for.

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