Questions About Spousal Support

If you are planning to divorce your spouse, one of your primary concerns may be your finances. Often, couples share the financial burdens of a relationship. However, once they divorce, the responsibilities are often split. In some instances, spousal support, or alimony, is offered to aid one of the divorcing partners. Here is a bit of information about spousal support:

Is spousal support automatically awarded?

Spousal support is not an automatic component of a divorce. The determination of whether or not spousal support will be awarded can be based on a decision of the court or on a mutual agreement between the divorcing partners.

What factors affect a court's decision concerning spousal support?

Here are a few questions that the court considers when approving or denying spousal support:

  • How financially stable is the requesting partner? Alimony is typically only awarded in cases in which one spouse actually needs financial assistance.
  • What is the age of the ex-spouse who is seeking support? An older person may find it more difficult to find employment, especially in a brief span of time.
  • How long has the couple been married? Many states only order spousal support after a couple has been married for a specified period. People who divorce before the designated threshold would not be eligible for court-ordered alimony.
  • Is the other spouse financially able to support the requesting partner and still cover his or her own personal expenses? The amount of alimony awarded is often dependent on what the paying partner can actually afford. 
  • What standard of living was the couple accustomed to before the divorce? An ex-spouse who is unemployed may find it difficult to maintain their prior standard of living without the aid of spousal support. The support is typically limited to a set period. However, in cases in which a former spouse is disabled, the awarded alimony may be permanent.
  • Did one spouse place his or her life or aspirations on hold to support the other? If one of the divorcing partners took on responsibilities, such as child-rearing, to allow the other spouse to focus on his or her education or career advancement, the court may feel that the sacrificing spouse should be awarded alimony.

Are the guidelines concerning spousal support the same from state to state?

Each state has its own governing laws concerning spousal support, so it is important to obtain legal advice from an attorney who is licensed to practice within the state where the divorcing parties reside.

If you are considering divorce and would like more information about alimony, consult a divorce attorney in your area.