Spousal Support Laws

Definition of Spousal Support:

This is a term used for payment or transfer of money/assets from one spouse to the other after the divorce is final.  The terms ‘alimony’ or ‘maintenance’ are used interchangeably with ‘spousal support’.

Need for Spousal Support:

In the United States, these laws were enacted to prevent the divorced partner from suffering a drop in their standard of living.  Most often, one spouse has chosen to stay home or has been out of the workforce for an extended period of time.  This makes it difficult for them to find a job that would allow them to have a decent standard of living.

Can all divorcees or separated partners expect Spousal Support?

Not necessarily.  Only 10% - 20% of all divorces or separations have this as part of the final judgment or decree.

Is it incumbent on the husband to pay spousal support?

In the US, it is deemed unconstitutional for any state to specify that only a man pay spousal support.  The Supreme Court has ruled that if a wife can receive such support, a man should also be permitted to get the same privileges.

What are the requirements to receive this?

  1. Firstly, a divorce is an absolute must. Or the alternative, living separately is another possibility. If neither of these situations occurs, no party is required or can be ordered to pay support.

  2. Additional requirements are based on need and the requirement of a contract.

  3. All states mandate spousal support as a personal right.  This can also be waived by signing a pre-nuptial agreement.  This contract is legal and binding and can be overthrown under very narrow circumstances.

  4. The requirement for awarding of spousal support is defined by statutes in different states.  It can and should be given only when a recipient is able to demonstrate a need for it. 

Does one require a lawyer for this hearing?

Not necessarily.  Many people can do this on their own but it is better to have a lawyer on one’s side as they are able to handle the intricacies of the law better, get a better deal and also keep emotions and situations from escalating.  Spousal support issues can be very complicated and lawyers are equipped to handle these matters as they have more resources at hand.

Law Article Archive