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Understanding the basics of alimony in a divorce

In order to have an understanding of how spousal support works, one should have a basic understanding of why courts consider granting or denying spousal support. In essence, the primary reason for exploring whether or not one of the spouses in a divorce should be granted alimony is to balance any potentially unfair economic effects on one spouse.

Typically, in a marriage if one spouse was not earning any money or was making less money than the other spouse, then the other higher earning spouse or sole earning spouse may be ordered by the court to provide the non-earning spouse or lower income earning spouse alimony. Some reasons for awarding alimony include one spouse giving up work to take care of kids at home or the non-earning spouse requiring additional time to build job skills to become self-sufficient. Furthermore, an alimony award may also be granted to ensure that the standard of living the spouse once enjoyed during marriage continues after divorce.

It is important to understand that alimony is not like child support where states follow specific child support guidelines to determine the amount. Instead, a judge has broad discretion is deciding alimony amounts. However, several factors are taken into account and these include but are not limited to the age, physical, emotional and financial status of both spouses. In addition, the length of the marriage, standard of living the once married couple enjoyed together, the amount of time needed to acquire job skills and the ability of a spouse to actually pay alimony are also considered

In most cases, alimony payments are not indefinite and may be discontinued after the spouse receiving it has acquired jobs skills and is able to support themselves. Furthermore, the parties may agree to a reasonable alimony amount.

Reaching an agreement regarding alimony could be difficult. It could cause disputes and could crate some financial problems. In these situations, it is always important to address these legal issues and gain insight about their options. This will ensure the problem is solved and each spouse understands his or her rights.

Source: Findlaw.com, "Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics," accessed September 8, 2014

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