What you should know
What a Judge Considers in Spousal Support
The first question the judge will consider is, “Does the recipient have enough money to live on?” In both countries, the spouse who asks for support is required to seek economic self-sufficiency. The judge will look at the individual’s ability to earn income and the marital and separate assets of the spouse seeking support to determine if he or she can use these assets as a source of support.
The best approach to prove need is to prepare a detailed budget to establish the amount needed for spousal support.
ABILITY TO PAY
The judge will decide how much the payor can afford to pay and still have enough to live in his or her accustomed standard of living. To determine one spouse’s ability to pay, the judge will add back discretionary savings (such as contributions to retirement plans and automatic withholding to savings accounts, bonds, and employer stock purchase programs).
LENGTH OF MARRIAGE
The length of the marriage is also a consideration when the judge awards spousal support. If the marriage only lasted for two years, it is unlikely that the judge would award permanent spousal support to one spouse. The judge may not award spousal support at all, unless there are children or there is some other circumstance that would prevent the recipient from working. A judge considers all of the facts and circumstances.
STANDARD OF LIVING
The judge will also consider the couple’s standard of living during the marriage.
AGE AND HEALTH OF BOTH SPOUSES
Another consideration is the age and health of both spouses. Is either disabled or retired? If so, are they receiving a permanent income stream? If one spouse is 50 or older, and has never worked, he or she will have a difficult time finding employment. Spousal support will have to be awarded.
DURATION OF SPOUSAL SUPPORT
Spousal support may be awarded for a specified time period, or it may continue until it is modified or terminated. Some judges have a rule of thumb that they will award spousal support for half the number of years of the marriage.
Spousal support generally ends upon the death of either spouse, or upon the remarriage of the recipient. Spousal support will continue until it is modified, unless the decree states that it is non-modifiable.