Spousal Support


Spousal support, more commonly known as alimony or maintenance, is a sum of money that one spouse is ordered to pay, most often on a monthly basis, to the other spouse.

Is there a difference between alimony and spousal maintenance?

Prior to the mid-1970s and the women's rights movement, any type of support was considered alimony.

Alimony was often viewed as a form of support given by one party, who had a superior earning capacity, to the other. More often than not it was the husband who paid alimony to the wife, who was usually the homemaker. With the trend of the 1970s and 1980s toward greater pay equity between men and women, state legislatures began to abandon the concept of alimony and adopt the concept of maintenance. Maintenance is generally viewed as a sum of money that will aid an individual in his or her efforts to reenter the work force.

What criteria are used when deciding who gets spousal support and how much will be paid?

A variety of factors are considered. Those factors include but are not limited to the age of the parties, the parties' present as well as prospective future earning capacities, the educational level of the parties, the length of the marriage, the parties' needs, the parties' overall financial condition, etc.

Do men always pay women spousal support?


The court will look to the various factors set forth above in order to determine how much, if any, is to be paid as spousal support. Gender is not a factor to be considered when determining spousal support. It is not uncommon, given women's advances in the various professional fields in business, that the wife may well have the superior earning capacity and may be ordered by the court to provide spousal maintenance for the husband. Again, each circumstance is unique and all factors are reviewed by the court in making this determination.

How long can you get spousal support?

Again, it depends on the circumstances.

Twenty or 25 years ago, if a woman did not remarry or cohabit with another individual, she could receive, potentially, alimony or spousal support for the rest of her life. With the changes that occurred during the 1970s and with the move away from the notion of alimony toward the idea of spousal maintenance, courts have tended to favor setting a time certain when spousal maintenance will terminate. As before, even if the court sets a specific time frame for spousal support, if that spouse dies, remarries or, in some instances, cohabits with another individual over an extended period of time, spousal maintenance can terminate.