Spousal Support And 10 Factors Considered When Awarding Support

Not every case is entitled to an award of spousal support.  Only when a party seeking support can show both a need for support and an ability of the other party to pay will the court even consider awarding spousal support.  And every single judge in every single court takes a different position on the amount of an award, how that amount is determined and what “ability” to pay actually means. 

Despite this disparity in determining whether or not an individual is entitled to an award of spousal support, the court enumerated factors that should be considered in determining whether spousal support should be awarded. These factors include:

  • past relations and the conduct of the parties
  • the length of the marriage
  • the parties’ ability to work
  • the source and amount of property awarded to the parties
  • the age of the parties
  • the ability to pay spousal support
  • the parties’ present situation
  • the parties’ needs
  • the parties’ health
  • the prior standard of living of the parties and whether the parties support others
  • general equity principles

Types of spousal support include rehabilitative spousal support which is temporary spousal support awarded to help a financially dependent spouse make the transition to self-support while permanent spousal support generally continues until death or remarriage.

Courts normally award permanent spousal support in circumstances such as a long-term marriage with a spouse who has little or no career or marketable skills, when a great discrepancy between incomes exists and one party has devoted most of their adult life to the traditional role of spouse and homemaker, or in another example, when doubt exists that a spouse will ever be able to provide for themselves due to mental health or other illnesses. This type of award is becoming increasingly rare although with increasing numbers of “gray divorces,” we anticipate seeing greater advocacy for this type of award.

Modifiable versus Non-modifiable spousal support.  Alimony is either modifiable (can be changed) and either party may be able to seek to modify the support award.  If it is nonmodifiable, then neither party can seek to modify the award regardless of the circumstances.  Whether or not your choose to have the court order modifiable versus non-modifiable depends upon the facts and circumstances of each case.  There is often no one good answer.

Alimony In Gross.  Alimony in gross is not really S.S., but is a property division that is payable by either a lump-sum award or installments of a definite amount over a specific period of time and is non-modifiable.  This prevents issues of bankruptcy and makes the matter enforceable under contract law.

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