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What is the Difference Between Alimony and Spousal Support?
One issue that often comes up in divorce proceedings is whether or not one spouse should have to regularly pay money to the other. There are many reasons one spouse might have to do this and there are many factors used to determine the amount of the (usually monthly) payment. The term for this concept is “alimony” or “spousal support.”
While the two terms have the same meaning, the latter is growing in popularity for a variety of reasons.
For one, the term alimony carries with it connotations of men paying their ex-wives a monthly payment after a divorce. This used to be the primary way alimony occurred as it was more common for men to work outside of the home and women to take care of the home and children.
The idea was that since women were not earning a wage and in many cases had forgone the ability to do so by working in the home, it would be very difficult for them to survive on their own financially after a divorce. As a result, the ex-husband, who benefitted from his ex-wife working at home, was required by the court to send a monthly alimony payment to her.
However, many families today look very different. In some cases both the husband and wife work, in others, the woman is the primary breadwinner. For that reason, the term alimony no longer seems like a good fit. While technically in the past alimony payments could have gone from woman to man, because they so rarely did, the term became synonymous with men sending payments to their ex-wives.
The term spousal support is stripped of such connotations and is favored in many jurisdictions for that reason. It is also increasingly common as a way to ensure consistency in language between jurisdictions.
How is Spousal Support Determined?
As noted above, there are many factors that determine which spouse, if any, has to pay spousal support and how much they have to pay.
Some of those factors include:
The length of the marriage
Standard of living during the marriage
Working arrangements during the marriage
Whether or not one spouse sacrificed earning potential, income, educational opportunities, or helped the other spouse attain any of the above
There are many more factors that can be considered and weighed as each family situation is unique. It is up to the judge, in conjunction with both parties and their lawyers, to determine a spousal support system that is fair for all involved.
What to Do if Your Spouse Files for Divorce and Wants Spousal Support
If your spouse files for divorce and is seeking spousal support from you, there are several things you should do.
First, and most importantly, hire a skilled divorce lawyer. Having a quality lawyer on your side who has experience in these matters will be crucial in making sure the divorce is resolved equitably.
Next, it is also important to make an honest assessment of your family’s working situation. If you worked outside the home while your spouse kept up your home or cared for your children, there is a good chance you will be ordered to pay spousal support.
There is a lot you can do, however, to make sure the amount you pay in spousal support is fair and not excessive. Being honest with your lawyer, providing documentation, and coming to the divorce table with a willingness to listen are all important.
On the other hand, if you believe you are eligible to receive spousal support, hiring a good divorce lawyer who can advocate for you is even more important. Your lawyer will work with you to present your case as persuasively as possible and make sure you get the support you deserve.