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Spousal Support, Spousal Maintenance and Alimony

Spousal support is the term used to describe the payments, or transfer of money, from one spouse to another after divorce. Spousal support is also called spousal maintenance, and was once exclusively referred to as alimony. Today, these three terms are used interchangeably. Spousal support laws were originally created in the U.S. to protect a divorced spouse from a decreased standard of living from what they were used to. For example, one of the divorced spouses may have been out of the workforce for a significant period of time, which oftentimes might make it difficult, or take a lengthy amount of time to re-enter the workforce. Spousal support allows that spouse to maintain the standard of living they were used to while they were married.

Types of alimony include permanent, temporary, and rehabilitative alimony. Permanent alimony is typically paid to the recipient until the death of the paying spouse, or in some cases, the remarriage of the recipient spouse. Temporary alimony, on the other hand, lasts only for a specific amount of time. In some cases it may apply when a couple is separated, and living separately, but are not divorced. It is sometimes awarded in cases where the divorce has caused a financial hardship, so temporary alimony is awarded until that spouse can recover financially. Rehabilitative alimony is typically awarded in cases where one spouse needs assistance with college tuition or job training, which enables them to re-enter the workforce. It is common with wives who have been stay-at-home moms, and is key to them becoming financially independent again. "Rehabilitative" in this case, is not meant to imply that the recipient is incapable of making a living or that some type of personal fault must be "corrected." The term is offensive to some, but no other term has replaced it yet, so we will continue to use this common term.

A common question we hear is "What factors are considered in spousal support?" Keeping in mind that state laws are all different, here are the factors that typically are considered when deciding whether spousal support is granted in California, and how much. These factors are:

  • Length of the marriage
  • The age and health of each spouse
  • The potential earning ability of each spouse, and whether it is sufficient to meet the needs according to the marital standard of living
  • The extent to which the supported spouse helped support the other spouse in gaining an education or maintaining a career
  • The payee's assets and ability to pay
  • The assets and separate property of each spouse
  • The ability to gain employment without unduly interfering with the interests of dependent children in the custody of the party
  • Any history of domestic violence between the spouses, including, but not limited to, consideration of emotional distress resulting from domestic violence perpetrated against the supported spouse by the supporting spouse, and consideration of any history of violence against the supporting spouse by the supported spouse party
  • The tax consequences to both spouses
  • The balance of the hardships to each spouse
  • The goal for the spouse receiving the support shall be self-supporting within a reasonable amount of time.

As you can see, there are many points that are considered. We believe that the best way to settle spousal support issues is while negotiating your divorce settlement. We can help with that, through divorce mediation or the collaborative divorce process. That way the control of spousal support is where it belongs...with you and your spouse.

Disclaimer – The materials contained in this blog have been prepared for informational purposes only. The information contained is general in nature, and may not apply to particular factual or legal

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