Determining Permanent Spousal Support
Contrary to what you might think, permanent spousal support is not mandatory. It is up to the discretion of the court and is based on several factors. It is not generated by a standardized calculator the way child support and temporary spousal support can be. It must be determined independently by the court.
In addition to the amount of permanent spousal support, the court specifies the length of time the support will be paid. In many cases, “permanent” is a misnomer. The court may choose to order support be paid only long enough to allow the supported spouse to establish financial independence.
In determining permanent spousal support, the court considers the standard of living established during the marriage and aims to maintain it as much as possible. Of course, maintaining two households is much more costly than one, so all parties must be realistic where resources are limited.
What Does Standard of Living Mean?
Standard of living is the financial means and type of lifestyle the family maintains during the marriage. This includes necessary expenses and luxuries such as vacations and nice vehicles. As much as possible, the court aims to protect the supported spouse’s station in life so the divorce won’t end the financial comfort enjoyed in the marriage.
Factors the Court Considers
Several factors contribute to the court’s determination of permanent spousal support. It matters how long the marriage lasted and the age and health of the parties. For marriages lasting less than 10 years, it is generally expected that the supported party become financially self-sufficient within a reasonable period of time.
The court will consider whether it is reasonable to expect the supported spouse to pursue education and employment and eventual financial independence. Along with this comes consideration of how the spouse’s employment might affect dependent children. Also relevant is whether the supported spouse assisted the supporting spouse in obtaining the education and employment the family came to depend upon.
The court orders permanent spousal support in accord with each party’s earning capacity, assets, obligations, and standard of living. The court also considers the tax consequences and financial hardships each party may suffer as a result of the divorce.
The Impact of Domestic Violence
In addition to having profound emotional impact on the victim, domestic violence during a marriage can dramatically affect the outcome of a divorce. If the supported spouse sustains a criminal conviction for such behavior, the court may reduce permanent spousal support or deny it altogether.
Permanent spousal support is a complicated matter, and an equitable outcome often depends upon effective advocacy. Experienced counsel is vital whether you expect to pay or receive spousal support. An experienced family law attorney can work with you to consider all of the relevant factors and determine what evidence you will need to demonstrate your case.
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