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Understanding Alimony: The Needs, Requirements, and Limits of Spousal Support

On Behalf of | May 13, 2020 | Firm News |

Alimony exists to reduce the potential of poverty following a divorce. People may have some confusion about how spousal payments work or who may have to pay. All divorcing couples should understand the reasons for alimony and if they may qualify as a recipient or could face an order to pay.

Rule Changes Over Time

Alimony began during a time when only a legal separation, and not a divorce, was allowed. Married women took care of the home and the husband worked to pay the bills. A legal separation would not allow a woman to remarry and have a breadwinner in the home. Alimony allowed the wife to continue to have some form of financial support.

Spousal support remained after divorces were legally acceptable because the courts recognized that many people (usually women) spent their entire married life as unpaid workers in the home. The lack of work experience and job prospects meant that the newly single individual would live in poverty.

Today, the legal system allows anyone to request payments to help them adapt to their new single life. Gender roles have shifted in many households, and women often have the same responsibility for aiding their former spouse. It is even possible to request spousal support when both spouses worked.

Levels of Income Necessary

Some may view alimony payments as a concern for the wealthy, but that is not the case. The determiner for alimony typically depends on the imbalance of income between the spouses. An individual may earn only minimum wage, but their income will exceed that of a spouse that never worked. An order to pay spousal support could take place if requested.

In households where both members worked, alimony orders can arise if one person makes much more than the other. The spouse earning less may want the support to ensure their standard of living does not suffer as they work towards raising their income. A judge may accept the request for support so the recipient can keep their home or other assets.

Factors That Control Payment Potential

The judge deciding the case looks at a broad picture of the relationship when someone requests alimony payments. The details do not only control the decision to award payments but determine the amount of support and the length of time the payments should continue. It is usually a combination of factors that influence the order.

The judge may review the couple’s current standard of living, the ages of the spouses, and the ability of the supported spouse to find work or receive an education that would enable employment. The length of the marriage and the health (mental and physical) of the spouses could also play a role.

An order to pay spousal support usually only occurs if the person ordered to pay could do so while also meeting their own needs. Unlike child support, divorced couples do not have a legal mandate to pay spousal support. Denial of support payments may also happen if the spouse requesting them has an adequate amount of assets for a comfortable lifestyle.

Limits Placed on Alimony

Spousal support could last for life, but most courts state a specific endpoint. Usually, the payments end once the spouse receiving payments remarries. Other orders could include a time limit or end when the spouse completes their education or reaches a specific income amount. An order for alimony may even end at the same time child support payments stop.

No one wants to lose a comfortable standard of living because they could not get alimony or because they received an order to pay the support. Everyone should do all they can to protect their self-interests during a divorce. At the Law Office of Travis Van Winkle LLC, we can help. Contact us to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.