Definition of Spousal Maintenance

Spousal maintenance or alimony is money paid to the spouse after the marriage has been dissolved. The amount paid after the divorce is defined by the divorce judgment. There is generally a time limit for the payment of spousal support. State laws vary for determining the amount paid and the duration for spousal maintenance, and the judge generally has some leeway in determining how much will be paid.

Prior to determining the amount of spousal support the judge will evaluate the length of the marriage, the health of each spouse, the ages of the spouses, the responsibilities of each spouse, whether one spouse reared children while the other spouse worked, and the earning capabilities of each spouse.

The goal of spousal support is to allow both partners to maintain a standard of living comparable to the one they had during the marriage. With this in mind, a judge may also consider how long it will take the supported spouse to acquire a job or return to college to increase their earning potential. For instance, if the husband or wife remained at home caring for children while the other spouse went to school to get a medical degree the judge may consider this fact.

Spousal support is generally temporary, but it can be permanent and may be paid until the supported spouse dies or they marry again. The amount of time allowed for temporary spousal support varies by state laws and judicial practices. Consider also, the court can modify spousal support orders if the situation of either spouse changes. For instance, if the supporting spouse gets fired or becomes disabled the amount of spousal support which must be paid can be reduced.

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