One of the most controversial issues of divorce is that of spousal support. Spousal support, commonly known as “alimony,” often makes a bitter divorce downright sour. After all, it is a common perception among those who pay spousal support that they should not be required to pay their ex-spouse their hard-earned money each month. Of course, those on the receiving end of these payments are very often dependent upon them and would frankly be in dire financial straits without these payments. Matters can become especially tricky if the earning the more money is required to pay alimony to a spouse that, in the paying spouse’s opinion, “caused” the breakup of the marriage (through an extra marital affair, for example). “You mean that not only is he allowed to cheat on me but I now have to actually pay monthly support??? How can that be fair?”

At its core, spousal support is the legislature’s way to help ensure that former spouses are treated fairly and do not become burdens on society. In ordering temporary spousal support, the court tries to provide the recipient spouse with enough support to approximate the marital standard of living and maintain the status quo. The court also orders short-term support for the purpose of allowing the recipient to get back on his or her feet, or complete some type of job training.

Longer-term support is often ordered to continue for one-half the length of the marriage. In California, when a marriage lasts over 10 years, however, a spouse may be eligible for so-called “permanent” or “long term” support, spousal support lasting until the recipient re-marries or dies.

To ensure that spousal support is awarded fairly, courts consider a variety of factors. These factors include the length of the marriage, the financial resources of each spouse, the couple’s standard of living while married, and the needs demonstrated by each spouse. In addition, the court may also base its decision to award spousal support on the perceived tax consequences of a divorce and the contributions that each partner has made to the other’s career. The final ruling will no doubt fall short of satisfying either party’s expectations of what is “fair,” but this concept is nonetheless a very valuable tool allowing former spouses to realize at least some of the benefit of the bargain made the day the marital vows were exchanged and also to ease society’s role in providing assistance for people who have fallen on hard times. If you have questions about either the payment or entitlement to spousal support give the experts at Feinberg & Waller a call to discuss this further and to explore your options.