Spousal Support vs. Alimony

By July 8, 2019divorce

Divorce can be very financially unfair to one of the spouses, who might have far less earning power or separate property. Under Ohio law, a judge can help the lower-earning spouse by ordering the ex-spouse to pay money. This money is called “spousal support.”

Not every divorce results in an order to pay spousal support. Unlike child support, there are no requirements that one spouse support another, and a judge won’t order spousal support just because one spouse will be poorer than the other after divorce.

However, spousal support is often a bargaining chip used in divorce negotiations, and judges award it when circumstances warrant an award. If you are interested in learning more, reach out to a Columbus spousal support attorney as soon as possible.

What is the Difference between Alimony and Spousal Support?

There is no difference. Spousal support used to be called alimony. They are basically the same thing.

Understood most simply, spousal support is money one spouse will pay to the other after divorce. It can be in a lump sum but is usually in monthly installments. Judges will decide whether to award spousal support based on a holistic view of the circumstances. Ohio Revised Code 3105.18 has a list of factors judges use:

  • Each spouse’s income and relative earning capacity
  • Each spouse’s health, age, and education
  • The retirement savings for each spouse
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The standard of living during the marriage
  • Whether one spouse cannot work because he or she is taking care of children
  • Whether one spouse made contributions to further a spouse’s career or education
  • How much time and money one spouse needs to obtain education or training so he or she can find employment
  • Whether one spouse forfeited career opportunities for the sake of the marriage or family
  • Tax consequences
  • Any other relevant factor

No one factor dominates. A judge looks at everything, and different judges are more willing to award alimony than some others.

How Long Do You Have to Pay Alimony?

The judge will set the duration of alimony, which under the law should be “reasonable.” However, reasonable is up for interpretation and is not a helpful concept.

Sometimes, the original court order contains a termination date. This is particularly true if the judge is awarding spousal support so that one spouse can get an education or more training in order to become self-supporting. A judge will roughly calculate how long it takes to get a degree and set an end date based on that.

Permanent alimony is rare. And even where a judge orders permanent alimony, there are events that can result in a judge terminating it, such as your spouse cohabitating with someone or getting remarried.

Remember that you can usually request modification to an alimony award if you believe circumstances have changed to such an extent that it is no longer warranted. For example, your ex might suddenly get a high-paying job. She might not tell the court about that, but you can. Your request for modification should point out that your spouse no longer needs economic support and that you would like alimony reduced or terminated altogether.

If you have a question about how long does spousal support last, then speak to your attorney.

How Long is Temporary Spousal Support?

Temporary spousal support refers to support that lasts for the duration of the divorce proceeding. So as soon as one spouse files for divorce, either spouse can ask the judge to award temporary spousal support. It will then end when the divorce is finalized. At that point, the judge can enter what is called a permanent spousal support order (even though it technically will not be permanent).

The longer the divorce proceeding, the longer one spouse will end up paying temporary spousal support. If you are receiving temporary support, it is important to realize that the judge could award you less in the permanent support order. It is also possible you might not receive any spousal support once the divorce is finalized.

How to Get Out of Paying Spousal Support

There are many techniques you can use to get out of paying support. For one thing, you need to realize that a spouse can waive his or her right to spousal support. For this reason, spousal support payments are sometimes bargaining chips in divorce negotiations.

Instead of paying alimony, you might agree to let your spouse have certain pieces of property instead. Of course, you want the tradeoff to be equal. It makes no sense to hand over the family home that might be worth $1 million to get out of paying alimony that might only have totaled half that.

If you haven’t yet gotten married, then you can include a waiver of spousal support in a prenuptial agreement. Meet with an attorney to draft one that is airtight. So long as your spouse signed it voluntarily, a judge will enforce it unless the divorce leaves your spouse completely destitute.

After divorce, the spouses can even agree that spousal support is no longer necessary. Of course, the spouse receiving alimony might not be upfront about this fact, so you still might need to file a modification action in court to ask the judge to cut it off. But, in theory at least, a spouse can agree to stop receiving alimony.

We also receive many questions about retirement. If you have reached retirement age, your income might fall dramatically once you stop working. Don’t assume a judge will automatically terminate spousal support obligations simply because you are making less money. Instead, discuss your planned retirement with a lawyer.

Contact Us Today

For many spouses, alimony is a lifeline that allows them to adjust financially to being single again. For other spouses, alimony is a dreaded monthly expense that reduces their own standard of living.

If you are getting divorced, you should fully think through whether you can get or will be ordered to pay spousal support. At Lawrence Law Office, we can analyze your situation and help you determine how a judge will likely rule.

Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.

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