Spousal Support – Who Gets It?

When spouses separate , the court sets the amount of financial assistance to be paid to a spouse in need by the other spouse. The objective is to maintain the family’s standard of living to the extent possible until the divorce. Spousal support orders are in nearly every case based on court-approved schedules or guidelines, and can vary from state to state. A local divorce attorney can be of great assistance in understanding these schedules, or sometimes called calculators.

The available income of the paying spouse limits the amount the court can order. Struggling to maintain two households on the income previously needed for only one often means there’s not enough money at the end of the month to pay all the bills. The most important considerations about maintaining a standard of living are providing adequate food and shelter. Spousal support schedules are used to quickly and objectively determine the amount that should be paid.

Some prudent advice when facing the possibility of paying spousal support is to get your finances in order first. Avoid taking out new loans, pay off bills as far in advance of the separation as possible. Setting up the family budget sensibly will help meet cash needs during the divorce process and lower the permanent support orders, once all the factors of finances are considered.

If you foresee that you will need support as a result of a divorce, examine your existing situation to make sure you aren’t neglecting valid needs. Your checking account and other records like credit card statements will show what you spend monthly on food, housing, clothing and other necessities.  This will ensure you won’t get stuck with a low support order because your spouse proves it doesn’t take as much as you claim to maintain the household. The support receiver has the burden of proving that more is needed, and how much the other spouse has to pay.

You and your divorce attorney should review the temporary support schedules of your state well in advance to be prepared for the amount the court is likely to order. While they provide a quick and uniform answer, since generally only net income is considered and expenses ignored unless in certain special categories. Net income is defined as gross income less mandatory deductions for items such as taxes and retirement. It’s like adding excess withholding for taxes and voluntary deductions to your take-home pay. It’s important to remember that adjustments to the family budget will change the amount of temporary support if the court will allow you to show the full amount is not needed, or is not enough, due to special circumstances.

Spousal support guidelines vary by state, but generally include the following factors: the length of the marriage, the age and health of each partner, the standard of living established during the marriage, each partner’s current level of income and earning potential, non-paid service preformed for the marriage , the sacrifices one spouse made so the other could further education, training, or their career, and other factors. In 29 states spousal support guidelines also allow fault to be considered with regards to eligibility for spousal support. If the lower income spouse committed adultery or some other marital wrong, they may be disqualified from spousal support privileges.

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