Whenever a married couple divorces, spousal support or alimony might be awarded by the court to one of the spouses, based on either a decision made by the court or an agreement reached by the couple. Spousal support is separate from marital property division and is determined on an individual case basis. Many people also have questions about child support vs. alimony. Child support payments are different from alimony because the money from child support payments may be used only for minor children when they are in the are of the custodial parents. Below we will discuss the basics of spousal support and alimony. What Is Alimony? – Alimony is intended to limit unfair economic effects that are a result of a divorce by providing a lower-wage earning spouse or a non-wage-earning spouse with a continuing income. Part of this justification is an ex-spouse might have made the decision to forgo their career in order to support their family and they need some time to develop their job skills and experience to be able to support themselves. Another purpose might be to assist a spouse with continuing the standard of living that they had in their marriage despite changes to tax returns, taxable income, bonuses, income tax, income, etc. How the Alimony Amount is Determined – In contrast to child support, which is mandated in most states according to specific monetary guidelines when it comes to spousal support, courts have very broad discretion in whether or not to award it, and if so, for how long and for how much. It is recommended by the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act that spousal support statues in many states are based on the factors below to be considered by the courts when decisions are made regarding alimony awards: – The financial condition, emotional state, physical condition, and age of former spouses; – How much time the recipient will need for training or education to become self-sufficient; – The standard of living of the couple during their marriage – The ability of a payer spouse to be able to support the recipient spouse while still supporting herself or himself – Length of marriage. Support and Alimony Order – Although it might be hard to estimate award, it can be even more difficult to gauge whether or not a payer spouse will end up complying with a support order. Child support has some real “teeth” of liens, wage garnishment, and other types of enforcement mechanisms. On the other hand, alimony enforcement does not. The recipient can go back to court for a contempt proceeding to attempt to force payment. Since a court order can award alimony, the mechanisms that are available to enforce a court order are also available to an ex-spouse who is owed alimony payments. How Long Does Alimony Have To Be Paid – Quite often alimony is considered to be “rehabilitative.” In other words, it is only ordered as long as it is needed by the recipient spouse to be trained and become self-supporting. If there is no termination date for spousal support specified in the divorce decree, the payments must be continued to be made until specified otherwise by a court order. If a recipient remarries, most awards will end. If a payer dies, termination is not always automatic. In situations where it is unlike that the recipient spouse will be able to obtain gainful employment, perhaps due to health considerations or age, the court might order additional support to be provided from the life insurance proceeds or payer’s estate. Alimony Trends – Most alimony awards in the past provided payments made by breadwinning former husbands to former wives. However, as society has changed, most marriages have two wage earners, with women being seen as less dependent, and more men are primary parts, spousal support awards and the courts have also kept pace. Increasingly, the tradition where men paid support and women received it is being eroded, and there is an increase of alimony payment orders for ex-wives going to ex-husbands. Contact a Family Law Lawyer for your Questions About Spousal Support – Alimony is an issue that arises in many divorces, either through a divorce trial or out-of-court settlements. Since it is frequently hard to financially establish yourself following a divorce, alimony can be very useful in helping to adjust to your new life following marriage. To better understand what options are available to you, and whether you may receive or owe alimony, it is very important to talk with an experienced and skilled local divorce law attorney.