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Can a court order payment of spousal support during a marriage or during separation?

UPDATED: February 4, 2020

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If one spouse does not receive adequate financial support from the other spouse during the marriage, he or she may be able to file a lawsuit to make the other provide support.

If one spouse has applied for and received support from the county, then the county may file a court order to be reimbursed for the support they paid out, the amount they will continue to pay out, and any lawyer or court fees associated with that action.

If you are separated but not legally divorced, you may also be entitled to support under a legal separation agreement.

How can I ensure that I receive support during my marriage?

Investigate the laws of your state. The responsibility of a spouse to take care of the other spouse, and/or any minor children, is called a “duty of support”.  Many states recognize this duty. For example, in California under the Family Code section 4300-4303, each spouse has a duty to support the other, even if the couple shares no marital property and the provider must use his or her separate property to do so. This duty exists as long as the couple lives together.

How can ensure that I receive support during separation?

If you intend to separate as a result of non-support or because of other problems in the marriage, then the court may also order support before the divorce is final. This may be part of a legal separation agreement. Whether or not such support will be ordered may depend upon:

  • How much each spouse makes
  • The capacity of each spouse to earn a living
  • Whether there are children involved
  • The expenses of each party or the expenses required to maintain the family home
  • Any special situations that make it impossible for one of the spouses to work, such as a medical problem.

Should I get help?

Whether you are married or separated, you have the right to be taken care of. If you are not being properly supported by your spouse, you should consider speaking with a lawyer for guidance and advice.

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