What Entitles a Wife to Spousal Support?

by Wayne Thomas
Spousal support awards are based on each spouse's needs and ability to pay.

Spousal support awards are based on each spouse's needs and ability to pay.

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Marriage involves both financial and non-financial contributions. When a couple divorces, the court must make sure that both spouses are financially stable. For that reason, judges may order one spouse to pay support to the other spouse. Knowing what forms spousal support can take and what affects the award will help you best prepare for your divorce.

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Overview of Spousal Support

The purpose of spousal support, also referred to as alimony, is to provide the same standard of living a couple enjoyed during marriage after divorce. Typically, the decision to award alimony is based on one spouse's ability to earn more than the other spouse and each spouse's individual needs. While judges have significant leeway in fashioning a support award, the gender of the person requesting support does not play a role in the decision.

Types of Spousal Support

Spousal support awards can be either temporary or indefinite. Temporary support may be proper to help a spouse increase her long-term earning capacity, such as obtaining a college education or professional training. This is known as rehabilitative support, and once the event has occurred or the specified term of years has passed, the alimony payments terminate. By contrast, indefinite support may be necessary if a spouse is unable to become self-supporting, for example, if your wife had an illness or disability that prevents her from working.

Factors Considered

When deciding whether to award spousal support, the court considers several factors as outlined in state law. These typically include the length of the marriage, age and health of both spouses, and both monetary and non-monetary contributions to the marriage, such as duties provided as homemaker. In addition, many states allow a judge to take into consideration the amount awarded to both spouses in the property division portion of the divorce.

Marital Conduct

Many states allow the conduct of a spouse to be taken into consideration in determining spousal support. This might include acts such as adultery or extreme cruelty, provided it can be shown that a spouse's ability to be self-supporting was affected by the behavior. An example might be if a spouse could not work due to the emotional trauma caused by an abusive husband. But, the purpose of support is not to punish the guilty spouse for the act.