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Alimony: Who is Entitled to Spousal Support?

UPDATED: February 20, 2013

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Length: 2:30

Alimony: Who Is Entitled to Spousal Support?

Spousal support can be an extremely confusing area of divorce law, and there are many misconceptions about it. Contrary to popular belief, spousal support is not guaranteed to a wife, nor is it an entitlement for being married for a certain period of time. The truth is, no one is guaranteed spousal support regardless of how long they’ve been married, and spousal support can be paid to wives or husbands.

The purpose behind alimony is to allow a spouse with significantly less income to maintain a lifestyle similar to the one they enjoyed during the marriage. Spousal support is awarded on a case by case basis, and many factors are usually considered when a court decides whether, how much, and for how long alimony should be awarded.

Factors the court may consider include:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The needs of the spouse requesting alimony
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to pay alimony, and
  • The relative age, health, education, and work experience of both parties.

A spouse receiving alimony is generally expected to become self-sufficient at some point. However, a supported spouse who was a homemaker for the entirety of a long marriage may not be reasonably expected to become self-sufficient, and in these cases, spouses are sometimes awarded permanent alimony. 

Typical situations that will cause spousal support to be terminated include: if the person receiving spousal support remarries, in the event of the death of one of the parties, or when the person receiving the support shares a home with a romantic partner.

It is also possible to modify spousal support payments upward or downward in the case that the income for either spouse is changed. For guidance in your specific situation, consult with a family law attorney who understands the divorce law in your state.

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