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How is spousal support determined?

Sorting out your finances during a divorce may cause stress. Having a handle on some of the basics may help you move forward with a more comprehensive financial picture.

Spousal support is often a contentious topic. Whether you are the person who is requesting it or the one who may pay it, understanding how the court handles it is key. With some basic know-how, you may find yourself able to compromise more readily.

The different types of alimony

Alimony comes in a few different forms, and the court decides what your situation qualifies for. The court may order temporary support payments that end when the divorce becomes final. Rehabilitative spousal support is another temporary form of maintenance. It applies when one spouse does not have the work history or education to find gainful employment following a divorce. Permanent support begins after the divorce. Contrary to what the name implies, it usually terminates.

The qualifications for spousal support

Not all people qualify for spousal support. The most basic requirement is the length of the marriage. This usually rules out marriages of less than 10 years, although exceptions do occur on a case-by-case basis. The court also considers:

  • The earning capacity of one spouse versus the other
  • The award of child support, if any
  • The relative health and age of the spouses
  • The type of lifestyle the marriage afforded

Note that when calculating the amount of spousal support, the court typically will not include income above $184,000 for the spouse who pays.

The law allows the court to order spousal support to help make finances more equitable after divorce. Having a more solid footing upon which to start a new life may help the divorce process move swifter.

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