Spousal support, also known as maintenance or alimony, is monetary assistance awarded by the court to one spouse in a divorce proceeding. In some cases, such support can be very important in ensuring one spouse does not suffer unduly during and after the divorce proceedings. There are two types of alimony; temporary or pendente lite alimony, and permanent post-decree alimony.
Temporary maintenance awards end when a final order for maintenance is entered in the case. Permanent maintenance can be for a set period of time (durational maintenance), or for the life of the supported spouse (non-durational maintenance). Non-durational maintenance ends when the spouse dies, gets remarried, or cohabits with another person.
Pendente lite, meaning “pending the litigation,” refers to alimony and other requests made when the divorce or separation case is initially filed. When making a pendente lite motion, an individual can also petition the court for immediate custody or visitation. A pendente lite motion is often filed when there is a real emergency. In the case of alimony, the emergency could be that the household bills are not being paid due to the pending divorce. When there is no emergency, court permission is necessary to file a motion after the parties participate in a pre-motion conference.
While courts generally make the final decisions on alimony, the parties can make an agreement regarding maintenance issues at any time during the marriage, or before the marriage through a prenuptial agreement.
Note that maintenance awards can be modified after they have been granted, though the court has to first consider any changed circumstances.
What Does the Court Consider in Determining Whether to Award Alimony?
The amount of temporary maintenance awarded is calculated according to a formula provided by statute. When the spouse being ordered to pay maintenance has income exceeding the statutory cap, the court then applies the formula, and considers certain factors to determine if the award should be increased.
These factors include:
- The duration of the marriage
- The differences in the incomes of the spouses, especially if substantial
- The standard of living the parties were accustomed to during the marriage
- The health and age of the spouses
- The chance of one of the parties dissipating or misusing the marital property
- The ability of the spouse seeking maintenance to become self-supporting, and the training and time that will take
- Whether the party seeking maintenance will have a reduced or lost earning capacity as a result of having sacrificed or delayed training, employment, career opportunities or education during the marriage
- Which spouse with whom the children live or will live
- Whether one spouse will have trouble finding work due to age or absence from the workforce
In addition to the above listed factors, the court may also consider other factors that the court finds proper and just.
Contacting an Attorney
If you are facing a divorce and would like to find out if you will qualify for alimony, as well as the answers to any other divorce questions, contact a divorce attorney for a confidential consultation.
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