Family Lawyer

Are Alimony and Spousal Support the Same Thing?

Family lawyer

Yes, alimony and spousal support (or spousal maintenance) mean the same thing. Given that alimony traditionally was awarded to wives, spousal support or maintenance is merely a more politically correct and gender-neutral term. In other words, the divorce court can award either spouse maintenance payments to be made by the other. Courts only do this, however, when a spouse asks for it and when the court finds such request meritorious.

Spousal Support Factors

Keep in mind that spousal support is not an automatic right or entitlement. Instead, your spouse must ask for it as part of his or her divorce petition. If he or she does so, the court will then take various factors, including the following, into consideration before awarding it:

  • Whether you and your spouse have a prenuptial agreement in place
  • Your physical and mental health compared to that of your spouse
  • How much you earn compared to how much your spouse earns
  • Your educational level compared to that of your spouse
  • Whether your spouse could increase his or her earning potential with additional education or training
  • How much noneconomic support your spouse contributed to the marriage
  • Whether your spouse has a history of domestic violence
  • Whether he or she has a history of alcohol, drug or gambling abuse that dissipated marital assets
  • The length of your marriage; generally courts do not grant spousal support where a marriage has lasted five years or less.

Spousal Support Payments

If the court requires you to pay spousal support to your former spouse, be sure, for your own protection, to make the payments by check or another method that leaves a paper trail proving when you make the payments and their respective amounts. Also, never make a payment higher than required or in addition to the ones required by the court.

Unfortunately, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 eliminated the deduction for spousal support payments for all divorces finalized after Dec. 31, 2018. A family lawyer can help you understand this Act better.

Length of Spousal Support Payments

In general, spousal support is a temporary situation that does not go on forever. Courts seldom award it for longer than 10 years. In any event, your payments will end at the time specified by the court. They likely will end sooner if your former spouse remarries. In addition, if the court awarded spousal support on the basis of your former spouse’s need for additional education or training, your payments will end once he or she completes that education or training. Contact your local family lawyer for any spousal support clarifications.