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What factors can affect a spousal support order?

Spousal support is payment made from one former spouse to another after divorce. The purpose of this payment is to limit unfair economic effects that divorce may have caused.

Historically, ex-husbands paid spousal support to ex-wives who worked in the home during their marriage and would have otherwise been unable to support themselves after divorce. Today, either a husband or a wife can be the higher-wage earner, which means that either spouse could be responsible for paying spousal support.

The need for spousal support can be a difficult subject for divorcing spouses to agree on. When divorcing spouses cannot agree, a judge must decide for them. If you think spousal support may play a part in your divorce, it may be helpful to understand what factors a judge may consider when determining the award.

Can each person maintain his or her standard of living?

When deciding if spousal support should be awarded, a judge may consider what standard of living was set during the marriage, and the ability of each spouse to maintain that standard of living. Each person’s earning capacity may depend on his or her skills and the job market for those skills.

The judge may consider if a spouse’s earning capacity is impaired because he or she worked only in the home during the marriage. Another factor may be the time and money needed for the lower-wage earning spouse to get the education necessary to be able to support himself or herself with a reasonable job.

How long did the marriage last?

A judge may also consider the duration of the marriage. This is marked from the marriage date to the separation date.

The duration of your marriage may impact the duration of a spousal support order. A judge can choose any length of time that he or she believes is reasonable, but often, spousal support will last half the length of the marriage.

Is there a history of domestic violence?

Documented evidence of domestic violence can also factor into a possible spousal support award. When a judge orders an abusive person to pay spousal support, the abusive person may also need to pay for the emotional distress he or she caused. If the abusive person seeks spousal support, a judge may decide not to award it because of the history of abuse.

Spousal support can have a lasting impact on your post-divorce life, so it is often wise to do what you can to may sure the order is fair. Although spousal support orders can later be modified, it is often better to make sure it is fair from the start.

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