Whether or not a spouse receives spousal support or alimony depends on several factors. Among those factors are the duration of the marriage, the ability of one spouse to pay, and the earning ability of the other spouse.

If you have been in a long-term marriage and both spouses work, with comparable incomes and pension plans, then more than likely there will be no spousal support. If, however, you have been in a long-term marriage and you were a stay at home mom, have no marketable skills and no pension plan of your own, you will probably receive spousal support. By the way, most states consider a marriage of ten years or more to be "long-term."

What type of spousal support you receive will depend on the financial situation in the marriage. Below is a description of each type of spousal support and when they are awarded.

Rehabilitative Spousal Support/Alimony

Spousal Support Attorney in Fairfax, VA

Rehabilitative spousal support is awarded for a short period and is meant to help a spouse "rehabilitate" himself/herself. It is paid so that the spouse may either obtain job training, an education, or job experience, or become more self-sufficient. It is also given to the mother of small children so that she may stay home with them until they reach school age.

Rehabilitative spousal support is normally set for a fixed period. The parties can agree to a time line or the courts can mandate a time line. If you are the receiving spouse you will want to make sure that your final divorce decree states that the need for spousal support is subject to review later. This means the court may look at the facts of a case and determine if spousal support should be continued, discontinued, or the amount changed.

Permanent Spousal Support/Alimony

Permanent spousal support continues until the death of the payor, the death of the recipient, or the remarriage of the recipient. In some cases it can continue after the remarriage of the recipient. It is a good idea, if you are receiving permanent spousal support, to request that your spouse carry a life insurance policy with you as the beneficiary. If he/she dies you will not have to suffer the financial consequences of losing your spousal support.

Permanent spousal support can be adjusted upwards or downwards based on a change of circumstance. An adjustment in the amount of support depends on any financial changes in the life of the payor or the recipient. If the recipient obtains a job with a higher salary, the payor can petition the courts to modify the spousal support so that he/she is paying less. If the recipient suffers a loss of salary or a traumatic medical problem, he/she can petition the courts and request an increase in support.

Reimbursement Spousal Support/Alimony

Reimbursement Spousal Support is paid so that a spouse can "reimburse" the other spouse for certain expenses incurred by the other. For example, if you are married to a doctor and you worked and help put him/her through medical school, you may be able to obtain reimbursement spousal support that will pay back the money you spent to help build your spouse's career. The payments can be made in a lump sum or over a period of time.

Temporary Spousal Support/Alimony

Also referred to as "pendente lite," temporary spousal support is given when the parties are separated and the divorce is not yet final. This is given so that the spouse may maintain her/his lifestyle between the time the couple separates and divorces. It is often awarded via a temporary court order.

Child Support

All states have a formula established or court rules that determine the amount of child support to be paid. Other issues such as misconduct by the parent or how marital assets are split do not affect the amount paid. State child support guidelines take into consideration the following things:

  • The needs of the child.
  • The ability of the non – custodial parent to support him or herself.
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the parents not divorced.
  • Provisions for any additional children the non - custodial parent may have.

Income Based Calculations

In some states, child support calculation is based only on the income of the non - custodial parent. In other states both parent's income is taken into consideration. In Indiana, child support guidelines factor in the income of both parents and assign each a share of the child’s living expenses as set forth by the guidelines. However, Massachusetts' child support guidelines consider only the income of the non – custodial parent. Guidelines for addressing extraordinary living expenses such as college tuition, daycare, and extracurricular activities differ by state.

Refusal to Pay Child Support

As long as a non-custodial parent remains in the same job, non-payment of child support is not an issue because their wages can be garnished. However, if this is not the case and the non-custodial parent refuses to pay child support, he/she can be sentenced to jail for contempt of court. There are private and stage agencies set up to help a custodial parent pursue a delinquent non-custodial parent. Government agencies have a variety of enforcement tools as their disposal, including:

  • The suspension of the non-paying parent's driver's license.
  • The revocation of any professional licenses the non-paying parent may hold, such as a medical license or license to practice law.
  • Seizure of income tax refunds.

Modification of Child Support Orders

You should never simply refuse to pay child support. If there are legitimate reasons you are unable to pay, you should petition the court for a modification of your child support obligation. As well, a custodial parent can petition the court to modify child support if they feel they deserve an increase. Grounds for modification may include:

  • A reduction in the income of either parent.
  • A serious illness or disability of either parent.
  • A change in your child's circumstances such as reaching the age of majority or inheriting money.
  • A change in the financial circumstances of either parent.
No matter your situation, B & B Law Group will help you navigate this difficult time in your life.