Divorce Legalese: A Non-Lawyer's Guide to Spousal Support Terms

Divorce Legalese: A Non-Lawyer's Guide to Spousal Support Terms

Victoria Pappas
 | 
So you're getting a divorce, huh? Don't feel too bad. It happens to the best of us.

According to the American Psychological Association, approximately 40-50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. 

If you and your spouse decide to divorce or legally separate there are many things you have to settle. 

Spousal support is one of them. 


 Spousal support is money paid from one spouse to another for a period of time, as mandated by a divorce agreement or judge’s decision. 

Each state has different factors in deciding if and how much spousal support someone will receive. Some form of spousal support is typically given if one spouse is not able to financially support themselves without the help of their soon to be ex-spouse. 

Since  this topic can be confusing, here are some common legal terms that come up when judges and lawyers talk about spousal support. 

If you don't want to memorize these terms, give us a call. Our lawyers can help you negotiate with your ex, look over documents before you sign them, and more - all at an affordable price. 

Alimony

Alimony is another term for spousal support. It refers to the monetary payments one ex-spouse gives another after the couple’s legal separation. It can be given all at once or in monthly payments for a fixed amount of time. Typically, the longer the marriage the more money and longer the payments will be made. 

Asset 

Marital assets are referred to as economic resources either spouse gained during the marriage. Some states refer to this as community property and others call it marital property

Marital assets and the division of such assets at the divorce can be a factor in determining how much spousal support is given. 

Change of Circumstances

Change of Circumstances is a term used to describe reasons for modifying spousal support or alimony amount. Typically, the person who wants to change the alimony amount needs to prove certain circumstances have changed since the alimony amount was initially made. Such circumstances include changes in income, health, or employment from the person paying the spousal support. 

Cohabitation 

Cohabitation refers to people living together in the same household, either as a married couple or unmarried partners. Cohabitation is usually cited as a reason to stop giving spousal support. The assumption is that if a person is cohabitating with someone else does not need support from an ex-spouse. 

Divorce Agreement

A divorce agreement is an agreement made between a married couple that decides to divorce. The agreement typically sets out terms regarding splitting property and assets, child support and visitation (if applicable, and alimony. In order to be legally valid the agreement must be in writing, signed by both parties, and accepted by the court. 

Family Court

Family courts hear cases involving family law matters such as divorce and spousal support. These courts adhere to local and state laws.

Legal Separation

Legal separation refers to a couple who is separated (living apart) but is still legally married. Alimony can still be awarded if a couple is legally separated. Some couples legally separate instead of divorce to maintain benefits, such as health insurance. 

Marital Misconduct

This refers to actions that allegedly cause the divorce of a married couple. In some states marital misconduct can affect the amount of spousal support one receives or has to pay. Things like cheating, domestic violence, or addiction can be considered marital misconduct. 

However, all states have no-fault divorces. In no -fault dviroce, it is not required to show that one person did anything wrong. The reason for divorce can simply be that the couple no longer gets along well. 

Marital Settlement Agreement

Under these types of agreements, the divorcing couple is allowed flexibility in that they agree to the terms of the dviorce (rather than a judge deciding the terms for them). These agreements typically include the amount of spousal support awarded. Then a judge will determine the fairness of the agreement. If deemed fair, this agreement will become the final divorce agreement. 

These types of agreements are more likely to be followed by the ex-spouses since they agreed upon the terms themselves. It also can save time and money. 

Marital Termination Agreement

Very similar to a marital settlement agreement (see above). The divorcing couple is allowed to choose the terms of the divorce - including the terms for alimony and spousal support. 

Uncontested Divorce 

An uncontested divorce is a divorce in which neither spouse is fighting against the other on the divorce. The couple needs to both agree to get a divorce and do not disagree about any divorce issues or terms of the divorce. One issue/term that must be agreed upon is alimony. 



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.
Victoria Pappas

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