Spousal maintenance, sometimes called spousal support or alimony, is a payment made from one former spouse to another after divorce. Historically, it was paid by a former husband to his former wife, who had worked in the home during their marriage.
Today, the higher-wage-earning spouse may be ordered to make spousal maintenance payments to the lower-wage-earning spouse regardless of gender. The purpose of this is to balance any unfair economic effects caused by the divorce.
Spousal maintenance amounts are not easy to predict
When deciding how much money one spouse should pay to the other, a judge must consider several factors. These same factors can also help a judge determine how long a spouse will be ordered to make those payments.
Factors a judge will consider include:
- Each spouse’s ability to provide for his or her own needs post-divorce
- Each spouse’s education and employment skills
- The duration of the marriage
- The age and earning ability of the spouse seeking maintenance
- How child support or spousal maintenance payments may affect each spouse’s ability to provide for his or her own needs
- Actions either spouse took to destroy or conceal community property
- One spouse’s contribution to the other spouse’s education or increased earning power
- The property each spouse brought into the marriage
- A spouse’s contribution as a homemaker
- Any marital misconduct that occurred during the marriage, such as adultery or cruel treatment
- Any history of family violence
Because so many factors are considered, it can be difficult to predict how much money a spouse will be ordered to pay or how long payments will last. If you think spousal maintenance may affect your finances post-divorce, it can be beneficial to do everything you can to help ensure you reach a fair outcome.