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A primer on spousal support

Like many legal terms, most people have a basic idea of what alimony means, but might not have a full understanding of how it works. With that in mind, let's take a look at the definition of alimony and the ways it's determined by the courts.

The idea behind alimony is to keep the lower-earning spouse from suffering unjust economic effects as the result of a divorce. This could be because the spouse voluntarily chose not to work in order to take care of children or the household. Now, the divorce means he or she must seek education, enter the workforce again or maintain a certain standard of living that existed throughout the marriage.

Most alimony is determined according to the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, but courts have flexibility in determining the amounts. These are the factors with which they base their decisions:

  • The courts consider the spouse's age, emotional and physical conditions and, of course, his or her financial state.
  • Courts also consider how long the couple were married.
  • The courts will also look at the lifestyle the couple had throughout the marriage. If they lived well, the lesser-earning spouse will often be given funds to be able to maintain a lifestyle that's at least close to what it was then.
  • The amount of time it would take for the spouse to attend school or re-enter the workforce to be able to support him or herself.
  • Finally, the courts will determine how much the paying spouse can afford to pay while still being able to maintain his or her lifestyle.

If you have concerns about how much alimony you will pay, or how much you will receive, you may want to consider speaking with an attorney.

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