Determining Spousal Support. Divorcing couples often have questions regarding the financial obligations of a higher-earning spouse toward a lesser-earning spouse. In some instances, one spouse may not have held gainful employment at all, leaving him or her with potential financial woes were it not for spousal support ordered through the courts. This complex issue requires the consideration of multiple factors. An experienced divorce attorney can help you maneuver the paperwork and pitfalls of this and other matters you will encounter in the course of a divorce.
Factors Considered in Determining Spousal Support
Just how much financial support might the court order, and for what period of time? Factors examined will include:
- The duration of the marriage/domestic partnership;
- Necessities required for each person to maintain a similar standard of living;
- Current and potential earnings of each person;
- Other obligations, such as child care, that would impact the ability to work;
- Health issues and age of the individuals divorcing;
- Assets and debts;
- Previous support from one spouse to another while getting an education;
- History of domestic violence;
- Tax issues.
How Long Will Spousal Support Payments be Ordered?
The courts will look at the above considerations and make a determination as to the amount and duration of payments. Generally speaking, payments will last for at least half as many years as the length of the marriage. Some marriages of lengthy duration may require support payments until the remarriage or death of the receiving spouse.
Changes in Support in Future Years
Either partner may request changes in the amount of support at a future date. There are some basic situations in which this might occur:
- The financial status of one of the individuals changes significantly, giving the court reason to consider alternative arrangements;
- The individual receiving support remarries or enters a domestic partnership;
- The court issued a Gavron Warning during the initial divorce proceedings, indicating that the supported spouse must work toward self-sufficiency within a reasonable period of time, at which time support would be decreased or eliminated.
What if the Person Ordered to Pay Support Fails to do so?
If an individual ignores a court order to pay spousal support, his or her wages could be garnished. As a last resort the payer could be cited for contempt of court, and jailed for that reason.
If Wages are Garnished, can Employers Punish an Employee?
Employers are not allowed to discriminate against employees due to a court ordered garnishment. An individual who experiences retaliation or loses a job under these circumstances may have a legal case against his or her employer. Continue reading →