Spousal support is one of the names given to the situation in which an ex-husband, wife or civil partner is ordered by law to financially support their newly divorced partner. Other names for this, for clarification, are alimony and spousal maintenance.
When a marriage or civil partnership ends in divorce or separation, agreements are made between the two parties in order to ensure each of them are treated fairly and come out of the relationship with their dignity and personal items intact.
Of course, this is not always the case. One party may have been accused of something which hampers their chances of this happening, or one may have not been represented well enough to help make this happen.
When one half of the separated couple is unable to support themselves or their family alone, the other half may be ordered to pay monthly installments to support them. This is essentially what spousal support is.
The amount that this spousal support will be is variable, depending on a wide range of circumstances. These can be as small as wages, number of dependents and living arrangements.
Spousal support is in addition to other maintenance payments that come from the ex-partner or elsewhere, such as child support and housing benefit, so this is also considered during this time.
It is not always a given that ex-spouses will have to pay spousal support, and it is not always the case that they would not. As mentioned, there are a lot of variables, but if the spousal support is ordered, it is usually a top up or extra payment in order for their ex-partner to be able to live as they should, as reasonably judged by the court.
As for the length of time that this spousal support will need to be paid is also dependent on circumstances. It could be that the payments will stop when a dependent is no longer deemed as dependent, or until the ex-partner’s personal finances change.
If the person receiving spousal support remarries, the payments are no longer a requirement, but this does not count if the couple are only living together.
The repercussions of failure to pay spousal support payments is a very serious matter. Chances are given to the party in order to make up for missed payments, but it is the same as failing to pay for utilities or mortgages.
If the party feels as though their payments are too high, or that circumstances have changed, they can appeal the rulings, or both parties can make a new agreement legally together.
Spousal support is not a definite issue in a divorce or legal separation, unless one party is deemed to be financially worse off on a personal level. What this level is subjective, and decided on by the legal teams involved, though a person’s “needs” are more than putting food on the table. Ambitions and comforts are also taken into account.
Spousal support may not be something you will need to think about, but it never hurts to know what could be on the discussion table during a legal separation.