Spousal Support (Alimony)

While Child Support calculation is governed by strict laws and formulas, Spousal Support is more up to the court’s discretion. The factors courts should consider when determining appropriate spousal support awards vary slightly from state to state, but may include the relative earning ability of the spouses, ages and health of the parties, duration of the marriage, standard of living during the marriage, and lost income production capacity resulting from a spouse’s marital responsibilities.

Spousal Support, more so than Child Support, can be impacted by which county you file for divorce in. Most families will only have the ability to file in one county, likely the county where they reside. However, if real estate or other business interests are located across the State (or Country), choosing where to file might be the most important decision you make. Consult with an experienced Alimony Attorney before you file to ensure that you make the right decision.

Generally speaking, courts will apply the following rules of thumb regarding amount and duration of spousal support:

Term of Support = Approximately 1 year of support for every three years of marriage.

However, this is a generalization. Depending on the facts of your case, a fifteen year marriage could result in anywhere from three years to five years or support.

Depending on the state and county, permanent spousal support starts to become a possibility after a greater period of time.

Amount of Support also depends on the length of marriage.

For Marriages less than 10 years, some counties may award only nominal support. Other counties may award 35-40% of net marital income. Between 10-20 year marriages generally result in awards of 40-45% of net marital income. Marriages between 20-25 years generally result in award of between 40-50%. Generally, 25+ year marriages will be in the 47-50% range.

What does this mean?

If a court decides that spousal support should be in the 40% range, then the court will try to give the spouse who earns less 40% of the combined net income. For ease of math, let’s assume that Husband earns $80,000 per year net and Wife earns $20,000 per year net. The court would want to get Wife to $40,000, which would mean that alimony would be $20,000 per year, or $1660 per month.

This percentage-based analysis is just a rule of thumb and may vary widely based on your state and county. It can also be influenced by what child support looks like. To get a better idea of what alimony will be, you need to consult an experienced Alimony Lawyer.

Unlike child support, spousal support is presumed to be NON-MODIFIABLE. The only automatic, statutory way for alimony to stop is the death of either spouse. The court needs to specifically “retain jurisdiction” in order to be able to revisit a spousal support award, otherwise the amount determined at the time of divorce is locked. When negotiating a settlement, adding modifiability or termination clauses are powerful bargaining tools which should not be given away freely. Commonly ordered or agreed upon modification triggers include remarriage and cohabitation.

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