Most of us are familiar with the idea of spousal support. It’s a way of keeping someone financially afloat after a divorce. Some people consider this system unfair. Realistically, however, it is necessary. If someone, for example, spent ten years as a stay-at-home parent, divorce cuts them off from the finances that have sustained them for years. It’s unfair to expect them to be financially sound in such a scenario.
Spousal support is based on several different factors. It is not an easily calculated formula. Instead, courts attempt to make the fairest decision using these factors. Experienced attorneys do have their own makeshift formulas they can use to guide their clients. Typically, a paying spouse will spend roughly 20% - 40% of their income on spousal support.
Spousal support considerations include:
- The couple’s current standard of living
- What each spouse contributed to the marriage
- The recipient spouse’s age, job skills, and health
- The potential for either spouse to earn a higher wage
- Whether there is evidence of abuse within the marriage
- How much the paying spouse also spends on child support
- The financial need of the recipient and the supporter’s ability to pay
- The resources of each spouse after property division (Dividing property is a separate process from spousal support.)
There are different types of spousal support. Each is designed to yield a different result.
Sometimes, people are in a comfortable place financially, regardless of a divorce. Perhaps both spouses are gainfully employed, and there’s no reason to make either pay for support indefinitely. Durational support is awarded if the receiving spouse needs a boost or if there is evidence of abuse.
Durational support cannot last longer than the length of the marriage, which is why it is often used for short marriages. The assumption is that less of your life was invested in the marriage, so it shouldn’t take too long to rebuild and get back on your feet. Durational support also ends if the receiving spouse remarries.
Just as it sounds, permanent support lasts for life, meaning it ends only with the death of either spouse. It is rewarded when there are no fairer options.
This form of alimony is specifically designed to help someone get back on their feet. In this scenario, the receiving spouse could have a high level of marketability for employers. Perhaps the receiver is currently pursuing a continued education, or they are on the verge of a big promotion. If, however, the receiving spouse is delinquent in fulfilling the expectations of their rehabilitation, their support can be cut off.
Like rehabilitative spousal support, bridge-the-gap alimony is temporary. It is designed solely to help someone transition into single life. Awarding this support requires identifying and fulfilling short-term needs.
Modifying Spousal Support
If the paying spouse experiences an “unexpected, involuntary, and substantial change in circumstances,” they can request a change to spousal support orders. If you, for example, lost your job or were demoted, that would qualify for an alteration. You are making less money, so you can’t be expected to make payments based on your previous income.
Also, be aware of the keyword “involuntary.” If you were fired due to poor performance, you may be unable to receive a modification. Likewise, if you quit your job or chose a lower-paying position, the courts will probably consider this change “voluntary.”
Keep in mind, however, that these changes can come from several directions. For example, if your ex suddenly makes more money, that could be grounds to request a modification. The same could happen the other way, too. If you receive a big promotion, your spouse may try to gain more support in relation to your current income.
Talk With an Attorney
If you’re concerned about spousal support as either the payer or receiver, speak with a skilled attorney. They can help guide your next steps, and they can assist you in filing paperwork for modification requests and more.
If you’re having spousal support problems, contact our office today for a free consultation. You can reach us online or call us at (407) 315-2006.