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Understanding Spousal Support: Factors and Guidelines

Sept. 4, 2023

Attention everyone! Let's talk about spousal maintenance awards and what you need to know.

When it comes to spousal maintenance, predicting the outcome can be tricky. Unlike child support, there are no set guidelines. The amount and duration of an award are at the discretion of the trial court. But fear not, I've got some insights to share!

To receive spousal maintenance, three things must be shown:

  1. The need for spousal maintenance.

  2. The ability to pay spousal maintenance.

  3. A sufficient length of marriage to establish "entitlement".

Several factors influence spousal maintenance decisions, including:

  • Length of the marriage.

  • Standard of living during the marriage.

  • Income and living expenses of both parties.

  • Age and education/employability of the spouse seeking maintenance.

  • Any disability status affecting employability.

  • Property division in the divorce.

It's worth noting that legally, the court must consider the contributions of each party to the marital estate. However, in practice, contributions are often treated as equal. So, even if one spouse was a couch potato while the other worked tirelessly, the court may not differentiate.

Based on experience, below are some general parameters for spousal maintenance, though every case may differ based on its unique circumstances

  • Marriages under 5 years usually mean no spousal maintenance.

  • If you're in your early 40s or younger, the court may expect you to become self-supporting through re-education or immediate employment.

  • Traditional marriages of 25+ years may result in a "permanent" spousal maintenance award.

Remember, these are general guidelines, and exceptions exist. Each case is unique, and it's crucial to consult with a legal professional for personalized advice.