Family

Getting spousal support

The court considers three key questions when it decides if you or your spouse should get spousal support. How long were you married? Do either of you need it? And can either of you afford to pay it?

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Spousal support is money that one spouse pays to the other after they have decided to end their marriage.

It’s the same as what's called "alimony" or "maintenance" in other states. It's meant to help you land on your feet and maintain the standard of living you were used to during the marriage. This will be important if you can’t afford to support yourself or your children without your spouse's income.

If you think you should get spousal support but can’t agree on the specifics with your spouse, find a lawyer to help you. Learn more about how a lawyer could help with your divorce

Like many other issues that must be sorted out when a marriage ends, spousal support is something you can define in your dissolution paperwork or request in divorce temporary orders. You can also recommend a specific amount during the divorce hearing process. 

The court will have to sign off on whatever arrangement you come up with. So you will have to present good reasons to support your claim for spousal support. If you and your spouse can’t agree on the arrangement, the court will decide what’s fair for you both. There are a number of questions that the court is required to look at, but the three key questions that go into determining spousal support are:

  • How long was the marriage?
  • Can your spouse afford to pay it?
  • How much do you really need it to live as comfortably as you were living when you were married? 

When the court makes a decision about spousal support, it will include the amount of money you or your spouse will pay and for how long. For example, $200 a month for two years, $500 a month for a year and so on.

If the marriage was long—let's say, more than 25 years—you might think you should be granted spousal support for the rest of your life. If you were married for nine years, you might think you're due spousal support for three years. But it doesn’t always work out that way. That's because it's also based on need and the other spouse's ability to pay.