Spousal support, or “Alimony” payments are NOT meant to be punitive (- used as punishment). Spousal support is a way for a spouse with greater financial resources and skills to support a former spouse until he or she is able to establish finances to support him or herself. Spousal support can be thought of as a way to level the playing field, maybe just for a little while.

Although people often think of spousal support as paid on a monthly basis, it can be awarded in a lump sum or be a combination of the two. In making a determination of whether or not to award spousal support, the court may consider non-monetary factors.

Length of Marriage

The length of a marriage is very important in determining spousal support. Marriages may be classified as short, moderate, or long-term. These are broken down as follows:

  • Short-term – A marriage that lasted fewer than seven (7) years;
  • Moderate-term – A marriage that lasts 7 or more years, but fewer than seventeen (17) years;
  • Long-term – A marriage that lasts 17 or more years.

Types of Spousal Support

There are different types of spousal support, and they are intended for different purposes:

  • Temporary: This is an award of support during the divorce proceeding, also known as spousal support pendent lite. This award is automatically terminated upon the entry of the formal divorce decree and may be replaced by one of the other types of alimony.
  • Bridge-the-Gap: This is transitional support. It is intended to help a spouse go from being married to being single by allocating the funds necessary to pay foreseeable and identifiable bills associated with re-starting a life without a spouse.
  • Rehabilitative: There are times when a spouse will need to pursue different educational programs or specific vocational skill training in order to obtain employment that will allow for self-sufficiency. When a court grants a party rehabilitative alimony, the order needs to include a specific plan. For instance, a plan will include the estimated length of time of the education or vocational program, associated costs, etc., and estimate the period of time before the spouse anticipates achieving self-sufficiency.
  • Durational: This often is ordered in the instance of a short or moderate-term marriage It is awarded as a set amount over a pre-determined period of time, not to exceed the length of the marriage.
  • Permanent: This will be granted in moderate and long-term marriages and will only be available for a short-term marriage under extraordinary circumstances. Permanent alimony is available to a spouse who does not have the ability to achieve the standard set by the marriage with regard to necessities of life and general needs. This is a very subjective standard as the court will review the couple’s life during the marriage and determine what is reasonable. A person with extensive staff and luxuries may be awarded enough to reasonably maintain a similar lifestyle after the divorce.

Factors in the award of alimony

If one of the parties to the marriage committed adultery, the court may take this into account and consider the circumstances surrounding the adultery. The court will consider financial matters when setting alimony, including:

  • Need of the spouse seeking support, and the ability to pay of the spouse who it is sought from
  • The standard of living that each spouse enjoyed during the marriage;
  • How long the marriage lasted;
  • The age of each spouse and any physical and emotional impairment that may hinder earning capacity and economic needs;
  • The financial position of each of the spouses, including marital and non-marital assets that are being distributed or retained under the divorce decree, and the assumption of any debt incurred during the marriage;
  • Whether or not each spouse will require additional education or career training in order to find a job that will enable that spouse to support him or herself;
  • What contributions each spouse made to the marriage, both financial and otherwise, including:
    • Salary and other income or financial contributions;
    • Homemaking;
    • Child care;
    • Support of a spouse in obtaining education; and assisting a spouse in building a business or career.
    • Support provides the means for one party to get back up on his or her feet. The main purpose is to assist one party in maintaining the standard of living established during the marriage.

Spousal Support provides the means for one party to get back up on his or her feet. The main purpose is to assist one party in maintaining the standard of living established during the marriage.

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