The What, How, When, and Why of Spousal Support

Posted on November 10, 2014 by

What is Spousal Support?

Spousal support is a court-ordered payment from one spouse to the other. The support payment is given to the receiving spouse for their support during the divorce proceeding and after the divorce is granted. The Juvenile and Domestic Relations district court can determine the availability and amount of temporary spousal support requested by the spouse seeking a divorce. Spousal support may also be granted in the circuit court during divorce proceedings.

How is spousal support paid?

Following the court’s grant of a divorce request, the court has discretion to order a spouse to pay spousal support payments. These payments will be either one of the following payment types or a combination of them:

1. Periodic payments for a scheduled period of time;
2. Periodic payments for an undefined period of time; or
3. A lump sum.

After spousal support has been ordered by the court, either spouse may request a modification to the amount or duration of the support order. The original spousal support order may be increased, decreased or terminated by a court order. The court may modify the spousal support order if the spouse requesting the modification can present evidence that there has been a material change in economic circumstances after original spousal support order and that the change justifies a modification to the order. Change in the financial needs of the receiving spouse or the ability of the supporting spouse to pay are examples of valid reasons for modification of spousal support.

When will a court order spousal support?

When determining whether to order spousal support, the court must consider the factors that lead to the divorce. In addition, the Court is required to consider 13 other statutory factors, including :

1. The needs and financial resources of the parties;
2. The standard of living established during the marriage;
3. The duration of the marriage;
4. Age, physical and mental condition of the parties;
5. Special circumstances of children which prevent employment;
6. The monetary and non-monetary contributions of the parties to the family;
7. The property interest of the parties;
8. The division of marital property;
9. The earning capacity of the parties;
10. Additional training and education for a spouse to enhance earning ability;
11. The decisions the parties made during the marriage regarding employment, careers, education, and parenting and their effect on present and future earning potential;
12. Whether either party contributed to the education, training, career, or profession of the other; and
13. Such other factors, including tax consequences to each party, as are necessary.

Spousal support will most likely not be granted to a spouse guilty of adultery. Even in the event of adultery, spousal support may still be ordered for the guilty spouse if the court determines that the guilty spouse’s financial and economic status is so unsustainable that the denial of spousal support would be unfair.

Why would a court terminate spousal support?

The death of either spouse or the remarriage of the receiving spouse will terminate the spousal support unless the spouses have agreed to continue to spousal support. Also, if the receiving spouse has been cohabiting with someone in a relationship analogous to marriage for over a year, the court must terminate the spousal support unless there is a spousal support contract. The court can also terminate support if the recipient no longer needs it or the payer no longer has the ability to pay it.

Spousal support is an important issue in divorce proceedings and courts will consider the various factors in order to make the best decision for both spouses.

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