Spousal support, also known as alimony, is a legal obligation created by a court order in which a person is to provide financial support to their spouse after the couple has divorced or legally separated. Although spousal support is not an absolute right, it can be granted when either spouse or domestic partner asks the family court judge for a spousal or partner support court order.
How Spousal Support is Established
In order to be granted alimony, there first must be a court case. It can be raised in any of the following cases: divorces, legal separations, annulments, and domestic violence restraining order cases. There are cases in which a couple does not need a court cases to establish spousal support.
In certain cases, couples could agree on a spousal support order by agreeing and signing a written agreement, otherwise known as a stipulation. With a spousal or partner support agreement, the couple does not have to go in front of a judge. But in order for the spousal support agreement to be legally established, the judge must accept the agreement and sign it as an order.
When a divorce or legal separation is pending, either spouse or partner may ask the court for a “temporary spousal support order.” A temporary order provides financial support to a spouse during divorce or legal separation proceedings. But when a divorce or legal separation becomes final, the temporary order can become a final permanent order and become part of the final divorce or separation judgment.
Factors Affecting Alimony
When a spouse or partner makes a request support, a judge will consider different factors in determining how much spousal support one spouse owes to the other spouse. The judge looks at the standard of living each spouse had during the marriage or partnership and what it would take to maintain that standard of living after the separation.
Family court judges take the following factors into consideration:
Marketable skills of the spouse requesting;Is there a job market for those skills;How much time and money it would take for the requesting spouse to get the education or training to develop more marketable skills in order to secure employment;The earning capacity of either spouseWhether the earning capacity of the requesting spouse was impaired by unemployment during the marriageDebts and assets of each spouseWhether there was any history of domestic violenceThe length of time of the marriage or domestic partnership.
When a court considers granting the order, the court believes that the requesting spouse or partner may be able to support himself or herself within a reasonable period of time. Thus, the judge will look at the circumstances of the case in order to establish the length of time alimony shall be paid.
Modifying and Terminating
There are situations in which either spouse might need to change the amount of spousal support. In order to be granted a “modification” of the spousal support order, the requesting spouse must show the court that there has been a “change in circumstances.” Changes in circumstances include when the spouse receiving support no longer needs it or the person paying support has lost their job or has suffered a significant drop in income.
It usually ends when the court order or judgment states the end date of the order. In addition, spousal support may end when one of the spouses dies or remarries.
It is a big issue in divorce and legal separation cases. When one is facing a divorce or legal separation, it is imperative that the person speaks with an experienced divorce attorney so that he or she can understand his or her rights and responsibilities and whether that person may have to pay support. In addition, a divorce attorney would be beneficial if a couple decides to write up an agreement.
Contact Anton Legal Group for a family law firm based in Tampa.