It’s common in marriages for one spouse to earn more than the other, and the higher earner usually has to pay some measure of spousal support (sometimes referred to as “alimony”). How much needs to be paid and for how long can vary depending on the marriage.
Below are some general guidelines for understanding how a court navigates this issue.
Spousal support is meant to help maintain a similar lifestyle
The purpose of spousal support is to provide the lower-income spouse with the means to cover their basic needs and maintain a lifestyle that is not much different from what it was before separating.
Courts want both spouses to support themselves financially, especially after shorter marriages, and the lower-earning spouse is expected to find employment if they were previously homemakers (though not immediately).
The longer the marriage, the longer support is paid
An important point to figure out regarding the duration of spousal support is the length of the marriage. If the marriage lasted fewer than 10 years, the length of spousal support becomes very straightforward – it almost always lasts for half the length of the marriage.
If a marriage lasted 10 years or longer, however, five years is usually the minimum amount of time spousal support will last.
In long-term marriages, the rule is much less clear as courts will consider all the facts to determine what is fair for the lower earner. This can be difficult to predict and very dependent on which judge you have.
All courts want to make sure that nobody is left in a difficult position that is far from what life was like while they were married, so there is no clear limitation on spousal support as it can be as varied as the couples themselves. In some cases, if the parties were married a long time and divorced later in life, spousal support can be ordered permanently, meaning until one side passes away.
The amount of support reflects the marital standard of living
The amount of spousal support to be paid can be more complicated. And even when an accurate calculation is made, judges have the discretion to lower or raise that amount as they see fit.
In general, the amount depends most heavily on two factors: the difference in income of each party and the lifestyle they maintained, sometimes referred to as the “marital standard of living.” If one spouse earns a lot and the other very little, Court are likely to order higher spousal support payments, especially if the lifestyle during the marriage reflected the higher earner’s income.
Some of the other factors a court will consider are:
- The standard of living in the last few years of the marriage
- The earning capacity of each spouse
- The financial need of each party
- The higher earner’s ability to pay spousal support
- Any history of domestic violence
Are you seeking or ordered to pay spousal support?
Our attorneys at the Law Office of Benjamin Kanani are experienced in handling spousal support matters and work diligently to ensure the best possible outcome for our clients. Contact our office today for a free consultation!