Spousal Support
Summary in Divorce

Despite the emancipation of women, courts seek to protect women, particularly those who have been in long-term marriages and out of the work force. Judges understand that a career as a homemaker, which has obvious economic value to the family and society, does not translate into money-making ability in the marketplace. For this reason, in divorces involving couples where the man is a dominant wage earner, courts award women substantial spousal support in addition to what would appear to be a large share of the marital estate. This is particularly true in the case of long-term marriages where the children are adults and the husband shucks the wife.

Prior to no-fault, awards of alimony, which is another name for spousal support, were made on the idea that they were punitive; that is, it was used to punish the guilty for bad conduct leading to the breakdown of the marriage. In this, fault on the part of a spouse could be a bar to the receipt of alimony or a reason to compel a spouse to pay the other.

In setting spousal support, courts may consider how the marital property is divided, the marital standard of living, each spouseís separate assets, the length of any premarital cohabitation, the spouseís age and health, the needs of the children and the ability of the dependent spouse to return to work (if children are a factor), the contributions one spouse made to otherís education or career advancement, presumptive inheritances.

Like child support, a change in circumstance of the payor or the payee is grounds for seeking modification of the terms and conditions of spousal support. The retirement of the payor spouse, either because of age or health, is a change in circumstance that may constitute grounds to modify support. When retirement is in good faith or unelective, such as reaching 65 or being forced from the workplace involuntarily, the modification, if any, may be granted if the benefits to the payor outweighs the disadvantage to the payee.

Bankruptcy on the part of payor spouse looms as a danger to the recipient. A bankruptcy by the payor spouse after the divorce can derange the finances of the recipient.

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