Helping the Lower-Earning Spouse

Spousal Support

For marriages and common-law relationships in which one person made sacrifices for the family and has a lower earning potential because of those sacrifices, spousal support is a way of helping the lower-earning spouse (the recipient) get back on his or her feet.


Spousal Support (Alimony): Entitlement, Amount & Duration

Spousal support, unlike child support, is not mandatory. It is not unusual, especially in short marriages, for couples to opt out of paying or receiving spousal support altogether. At Williams Family Lawyers, we will help you determine whether your separation should involve spousal support, how much that support should be and how long it should last.

Settling on the Details of Spousal Support

Judges will consider a number of factors when they determine the amount of spousal support and the length of time that spousal support should be paid. Even if you are able to come to an agreement on spousal support outside of court, it is valuable to consider the circumstances of both the payor and recipient, including:

Role in the relationship: Did one party put the other through school, take time off to raise the children or leave behind a promising job for the other's career?
Length of the relationship: How long were the parties together or married? How has that impacted the recipient?

Incomes: What is the payor's income? Does the recipient have any income? Is the payor self-employed or does he or she earn income from investments or commissions? What is the payor's ability to support the recipient?

Self-Sufficiency: How long will it take the recipient to become self-sufficient? What does he or she need to take steps toward self-sufficiency? How does the recipient's age factor into his or her ability to become self-sufficient?

Other Considerations: Property division, child support and custody may affect spousal support. For example, if the recipient remains in the marital home, he or she may not need as much spousal support. Child support always has priority over spousal support.

In addition to the amount and duration of spousal support, you will need to consider whether the payments should be paid in a lump sum or periodically. With a lump sum, you may be freer to move forward. With periodic payments, it may be easier for both of you to budget your finances.