Spousal support during the marriage is the legal obligation that spouses have to provide for each other.  In divorce, spousal support is also known as alimony or maintenance.  There are three types of spousal support: Temporary, Rehabilitative and Permanent.

  • Temporary support – is usually given to a spouse while the divorce and ancillary matters such as child support, property division, and custody are pending.
  • Rehabilitative spousal support – is usually given in marriages of ten years or less and is for a limited period.  It is given in situations where one spouse may have been out of the work force for a period or not worked at all.  It gives the receiving spouse a chance to get a job, job training or re-establish themselves in their profession.
  • Permanent spousal support – is usually given in marriages of ten or more years depending on the jurisdiction.  It is awarded when one spouse is unable to work for mental or physical reasons, or in instances where there are special needs children requiring the receiving spouse to remain in the home.

Factors the courts look at in determining spousal support include:

  • Length of the marriage;
  • Age of the parties — younger spouses are thought more likely to recover financially from divorce;
  • Health of the parties;
  • Education;
  • Earning potential;
  • Fault — the appropriate states;
  • Lifestyle of the parties during the marriage.

Spousal support is still more likely to be paid by the husband to the wife. But women who earn high salaries can find themselves being the party ordered to pay spousal support, especially in marriages where they have been the major breadwinner.

Spousal support also has tax consequences of which parties need to be aware.  Spousal support is a deduction from the income of the spouse paying and is included as income to the party that receives it.  This factor may be a bargaining point in any negotiations related to property division.  Child support does not carry the same tax consequences.

Finally, remember that in most jurisdictions, remarriage will terminate the right to spousal support, which cannot be reinstated if the new marriage fails. Parties can petition the court if the circumstances of the parties change.



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