Spousal Support & Divorce Law: Displaced Homemakers Rights

By Beverly Bird

The most vulnerable of divorcing spouses are those who have devoted their lives to their home and children while their partners earn income. These displaced homemakers are rarely able to earn enough to support themselves when they lose their partner’s financial support through divorce. Even the most anti-alimony state legislatures recognize this. Displaced homemakers have a right to continued support when their marriages end, although the laws are more generous in some states than in others.

The most vulnerable of divorcing spouses are those who have devoted their lives to their home and children while their partners earn income. These displaced homemakers are rarely able to earn enough to support themselves when they lose their partner’s financial support through divorce. Even the most anti-alimony state legislatures recognize this. Displaced homemakers have a right to continued support when their marriages end, although the laws are more generous in some states than in others.

Criteria

In most states, a displaced homemaker most prove to a divorce court that she has devoted her career years to caring for her children and her home. This means her marriage must have lasted at least 10 years. Texas, which has a reputation for being stingy with spousal support awards, requires that a displaced homemaker be incapable of supporting herself because she was caring for her family when she could have been honing job skills or pursuing an education. Florida, which is more alimony-friendly, only requires that a homemaker's earning potential is insufficient to allow her to live as well as she did when she was married.

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Duration

How long spousal support will last, even for displaced homemakers, depends on state law. Judges in California and Florida often will not set a cut-off date in their rulings. Tennessee tends to award such spouses support for only a limited period of time, until they can rehabilitate themselves and find gainful employment. Texas limits alimony to three years in all circumstances, unless a spouse is mentally or physically disabled. Unlimited or permanent spousal support usually ends if the homemaker remarries. Florida has passed legislation that puts cohabitation in the same category as remarriage, while California will end support when, and if, the homemaker is able to find employment.

Amount

Few states have ironclad spousal support laws. Generally, legislation leaves the amount of support, and even whether or not a particular case warrants it, to the discretion of a judge. Texas is an exception. Courts in Texas will not award spousal support in excess of 20 percent of the earning spouse’s income or $2,500 a month, whichever is less.

Nature of Support

In addition to monthly support payments for necessary living expenses, displaced homemakers in some states have a few more rights. Massachusetts law allows a judge to order the earning partner to provide medical insurance coverage for his ex-spouse, over and above alimony. Tennessee often adds the cost of job training and education onto spousal support awards.

Other Relief

The laws in some states reach beyond divorce legislation to protect displaced homemakers' rights. Maryland’s state code also provides for programs that offer health care options, job training, education and job placement for such spouses.

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Alimony Laws in North Carolina on Extramarital Affairs

References

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Alimony Regulations in North Carolina

When spouses divorce, one spouse may leave the marriage financially weaker, without having the other spouse's income and assets at her disposal. North Carolina awards alimony to that spouse, in accordance with the state's legislative code. The law sets forth who is entitled to alimony, how the award amount is determined and when alimony is modifiable or when it will terminate.

How Is Alimony Calculated in New Jersey?

You may find yourself with extra expenses or no way of adequately supporting yourself because of a divorce, but you can ask the court to award you alimony, or spousal support, as part of your divorce decree. In New Jersey, courts award alimony at their discretion, based on certain statutory factors, but there is no standard to calculate the amount of alimony that makes it predictable in all cases.

Massachusetts Alimony Laws

Until 2012, in many cases, alimony in Massachusetts was awarded on a lifetime basis, and judges had widespread discretion concerning the amount and duration of alimony awards. In 2012, Massachusetts modified its existing alimony laws by adopting the Massachusetts Alimony Reform Act, as it's commonly known, which sharply reduces the duration of alimony awards; alimony is now generally based on how long a couple was married. The 2012 reform law also reduced the amount of discretion judges have in determining the amount of alimony awards. This brings Massachusetts generally in line with the laws for awarding alimony in other states.

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