Spousal Support 101: Who Pays, When and Why

Cassidy Chansirik
We all know getting married doesn't mean living happily ever after. In Western cultures, more than 90 percent of people marry by age 50. But 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce, according to the American Psychological Association

And that was before the pandemic. 

Divorce rates spiked in China after the first wave of the pandemic. Experts at Reform Austin predict that couples in the United States may face the same fate. 

But divorcing doesn't mean you go your separate ways and never think of each other again. Usually, one party must pay the other - monthly or in a lump sum - after a divorce. 

According to the Census Bureau, 243,000 individuals received spousal support after divorcing. 

If you are considering divorce, it’s important to know that you may have to pay spousal support to your ex, or receive it, if the judge sees fit. 

What is spousal support?

Spousal support is financial support given monthly to your ex-spouse following a divorce or legal separation. The purpose of it is to limit any unfair economic impacts faced by the spouse who is non-wage earning or lower-wage earning. 

Spousal support is also referred to as alimony. 

Types of spousal support

There are two types of spousal support: temporary and permanent. 

Temporary spousal support is given for a set amount of time, and is intended to lessen the impact of economic hardship of divorce for one spouse. 

Permanent spousal support is given until the receiving spouse remarries or the paying spouse dies. Currently, only Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina, and West Virginia have permanent spousal support in place.

How is spousal support decided?

The judge may use any of the following factors to determine whether or not to award spousal support: 
  • Length of the marriage
  • Need of the receiving spouse
  • Ability of the paying spouse to pay
  • Age and health of each spouse
  • Standard of living
The amount of spousal support paid, and for how long, are also determined using a combination of the above factors. 

What else should I know about spousal support?

Because of the 2017 change in tax codes, spousal support is no longer tax-deductible for any divorce agreement signed after December 31, 2018

Furthermore, if your income has changed significantly because of the pandemic and you are no longer able to pay for spousal support, seek legal advice. You can face legal consequences for stopping payments. 

If you are in need of assistance for divorce or spousal support, Court Buddy can help you.

This article is intended to convey generally useful information only and does not constitute legal advice. Any opinions expressed are solely those of the author, not LawChamps.


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