Understanding Spousal Support
When going through a divorce, it’s not uncommon for one party to agree to make ongoing spousal maintenance payments to the other. It’s important to note that spousal maintenance is distinct from child maintenance, which covers the day-to-day expenses of raising a child after divorce.
Decoding Spousal Maintenance vs. Spousal Support
While some people use the terms “spousal maintenance” and “spousal support” interchangeably, there is a key difference between the two. Spousal maintenance is typically paid after a divorce, whereas spousal support is provided while the couple is still married. Usually, if one spouse fails to fulfill their support obligations, the other may seek spousal support through a family court.
Factors Influencing Spousal Maintenance Determination
When a couple ends their marriage, the court evaluates various factors to decide whether to award spousal maintenance. These payments can be set for a specific period or even for a lifetime, though they are generally established for a few years.
Spousal maintenance is not gender-specific in most states across the United States, meaning both men and women can receive it. However, men rarely pursue spousal maintenance due to higher average earnings and a lower likelihood of leaving the workforce after having children. Consequently, it is often women who seek spousal maintenance.
Courts consider several factors when determining spousal maintenance, including:
- Duration of the marriage: Longer marriages tend to have a higher chance of larger maintenance awards.
- Health and age of the parties: If one spouse is in poor health or significantly older, larger maintenance awards are more likely.
- Future earning capacity: Maintenance duration may be shorter if a spouse has the potential to obtain education, employment, and financial stability. Conversely, the opposite may apply.
- Additional expenses for the children: The custodial parent may receive a substantial maintenance award to cover costs related to childcare, education, and medical care for the children.
- Equitable distribution of marital property: Courts aim to divide a couple’s assets fairly and justly, rather than simply splitting them in half. In the context of spousal maintenance, it means that if one partner keeps the marital home, they may need to pay maintenance to the other partner to compensate for their equity in the house.
Each state’s spousal maintenance laws and specific circumstances of the divorce can lead to variations in how these factors are considered. Additionally, courts often take into account other elements such as the need for training or earning a degree, tax consequences, and individual property.
Negotiating Spousal Maintenance with a Lawyer
In some cases, divorcing couples come to an agreement on a spousal maintenance plan. They can seek the assistance of a family law attorney, who helps them draft a fair payment plan and resolve any disagreements.
Commonly, these plans involve higher payments during the initial years to provide the dependent party with the flexibility to pursue education or training that can lead to employment opportunities. Once the receiving spouse enters the workforce, the payments are typically reduced.
Trust Garrity Traina for Expert Spousal Maintenance Negotiations
If you require assistance in creating a spousal maintenance plan, whether temporary or long-term, our award-winning family law attorneys at Garrity Traina are here to guide you. We have successfully helped countless clients navigate spousal maintenance terms and develop well-thought-out payment plans. Schedule an initial consultation with us today for personalized support.