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What Courts Consider When Awarding Spousal Support


Despite what most may believe, not everyone is entitled to spousal support after a divorce. While the factors vary state to state, and each state has its own set of guidelines for determining support, most jurisdictions similarly consider certain basic factors when awarding and determining the amount and frequency of support for a recently divorced couple.

Spousal support may serve as a temporary rehabilitative bridge helping a spouse transition from one stage of life to another, as a reimbursement for sacrifices made, as a virtually permanent support obligation, or as a combination of these functions, as the judge’s discretion dictates.

What Judges Consider Important

Judges take into consideration a wide range of factors to determine in what way and how much each party should contribute to maintaining, as far as possible, the standard of living established during the marriage. Judges will consider the following when determining support:

  • The marketable skills of each spouse and whether there’s really a market for the skills. If there is a market but the skills are lacking, what will it take and how much it will cost to get the needed skills?  If there are skills but no market, what will it take to get new marketable skills?

  • The extent to which the supported party lost out by not working during the marriage but contributing in other ways to the household or to the supporting spouse’s career preparation and success – and how much is that contribution is worth?

  • The financial needs of each, how long the marriage lasted, and how much the paying spouse can afford

  • The financial resources of each – e.g. all assets and income, earned and unearned, active and passive, from paychecks, perquisites, investments, trust funds, etc.

  • The age and health of both parties

  • Any history of domestic violence – on the grounds that no one should finance his or her abuse

  • The balance of hardships between the two parties

  • The goal of ensuring that the supported spouse becomes self-supporting in a reasonable amount of time

To this fairly standard list, Family Law in most states adds “any other factors” the court deems pertinent, with no limitation on any factors the court might consider “just and equitable.”

Length of Marriage

Only a handful of states set guidelines for how long spousal support should be forthcoming, but one fairly general rule of thumb is that it should last half as long as the marriage did – up until the so-called “ten-year rule.” Courts tend to maintain their jurisdiction over support issues for marriages of that or greater length; a judge is unlikely to order a spouse who has been the primary parent and homemaker for three or four decades to go out and get a career. This ultimately is to prevent people from becoming the state’s responsibility and going on welfare.  

Spousal support does end if and when a receiving spouse remarries or, in some states, spousal support will end when the receiving party moves in with someone to co-habit.  Death also puts an end to spousal support – that is, the death of the receiving spouse.

Calculating Support with it’s over easy

it’s over easy’s support calculators will take the guesswork out of whether you or your spouse are entitled to spousal support. (You will also be able to determine an estimated amount for child support, if applicable.)  Based on the applicable state guidelines, the support calculator will estimate support payments based on the financial information that you and your spouse provide in the platform. This gives users a realistic expectation of what they can expect in terms of support, without having to consult costly attorneys and financial experts.

Go to this page about online divorce to learn more.