Divorce: How Spousal Support Is Determined

If you are going through a divorce, spousal support is most likely something that will come up. In many cases, one ex-spouse has to provide financial support to the other. Here are the basics of how spousal support is determined.

Divorce Court

In order to get an official divorce, you will have to go to court. The court system will decide exactly how much will have to be paid in the form of spousal support. The judge is going to take a number of different things into consideration. Ultimately, it will be up to the judge's discretion to determine the amount of spousal support. You should also know that terms will vary depending on which state you live in. Therefore, no two cases will be exactly alike.


One of the most important factors in determining spousal support is income. The court is going to look at the incomes of both spouses when making this decision. They will take into consideration who makes the most money and whether both spouses contributed equally to the marriage financially. For example, if one spouse worked, and the other spouse stayed at home with the children, this will affect the amount of alimony that is provided. In this case, the spouse who stayed home might have sacrificed his or her ability to advance in a career, which could make that person eligible for a substantial spousal support payment for an extended period of time. If the spouses earned approximately the same amount of money and were basically self-sufficient, then any spousal support payments might be negligible. 

If you are a movie star, you will most likely have to pay a larger amount in spousal support than someone who works for minimum wage.


Your lifestyle will also play a vital role in the decision of the judge. He or she is going to look at how much money you spent on a regular basis. If you have been living a very extravagant lifestyle, your divorce settlement may involve a much larger spousal support payment than if you just barely got by. 


Another factor that might play a role in spousal support payments is fault. If one spouse is at fault in the divorce, this could affect the decision of the judge. For example, if one spouse was having an affair, he or she may lose the ability to obtain spousal support since that person caused the divorce in the first place. You should know, though, that some states do not factor in fault when it comes to deciding on spousal support.

Other Factors

Although the judge is going to do his or her best to keep both spouses living in a standard close to what they enjoyed before, this may not be possible in many cases. Most couples do not make enough to pay for both of them to live separately and enjoy the same level of comfort that they did when they lived together. The judge will not want to see one spouse in poverty, while the other one lives comfortably without working.

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