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Whenever spousal support is awarded, the court must enter a special order called a Uniform Spousal Support Order (USSO). The USSO states the terms of the spousal support award. This includes how much will be paid, for how long, and how payments are made.

If you or your spouse asks the court for spousal support, it will consider the following:

Periodic spousal support can be temporary or permanent. Temporary spousal support can give a person a chance to get a degree or gain job skills. It can last for a specific number of months or years, or until a specific event. The event could be the death of either spouse, the remarriage of the spouse getting the spousal support, or when a specific amount of support has been paid.

A court is more likely to award “permanent” alimony in long-term marriages. Especially if the spouse getting the support is older than 60, has little education or work experience, and has little or no income. Even if spousal support is called “permanent support”, the payments may end at retirement when the parties start sharing in pension or retirement benefits.

Either spouse can ask for a change in spousal support unless the parties agreed in their Judgment of Divorce not to allow changes. The court will normally only change spousal support when there are new facts for the court to consider or when one spouse’s circumstances have changed.

Spousal Support is money paid to support a spouse or former spouse, formerly called “alimony”. 

There is not a perfect legal formula that will tell you whether or not you will get spousal support or how much you will get. Spousal support is decided on a case-by-case basis, with varying scenarios with each unique case. The court will decide about spousal support as part of the property, assets, as well as the debt division in your divorce. This includes how long the support will be paid.

The first analysis the court will make is whether one party has a “need” to receive spousal support, and second, whether the other party has an “ability to pay” spousal support. The court will factor in proof
 if one spouse will be financially worse off after the divorce and the other party can pay some money to make up the difference. 

Spousal support is not simple. If you want to ask for spousal support you may want to talk to a lawyer. If you need a lawyer and are low-income, you may qualify for free legal help. Free legal assessment link.

You and Your Spouse Can Agree on Spousal Support.

Spousal support is part of the overall property division in a divorce. You and your spouse can try to work out a property settlement yourselves. This includes whether one spouse will pay spousal support and how much it will be.

Sometimes a court orders spousal support to be paid all at once. This is called “lump-sum” spousal support. Sometimes it orders spousal support to be paid over time, in monthly or yearly payments. This is called "periodic” spousal support.

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The Uniform Spousal Support Order (USSO)

If You and Your Spouse Can’t Agree, the Court Will Decide

There is no specific formula for spousal support, but there are factors that are taken into consideration to help assess what the spousal support / alimony should be.

How each spouse behaved during your marriage. The court will look at how you treated each other and who was at fault in the breakdown of the marriage.

How long you were married. The longer you’ve been married, the more likely the court is to award spousal support. This is most important if one spouse doesn’t have a career or good job skills.

Whether each spouse can work. The court is more likely to award spousal support to a party who can’t work or is unlikely to find work. Spousal support might be short term to give the person time to finish school or gain job skills.

How much property each person is getting in the divorce and whether the property is “liquid.” The court divides the parties' property and debts in every divorce case. When deciding whether one person needs spousal support, courts consider the type and amount of property each party is getting. A person is normally not expected to use their property award to pay everyday living expenses. So, it may be appropriate for the court to award spousal support to a spouse who is getting mostly non-cash assets.

How old you and your spouse are. An older person who has not worked during the marriage is more likely to need spousal support. But if the other spouse is retired and living on a fixed income, that will weigh against awarding spousal support. Especially if the spouse who would get the spousal support is younger than retirement age.

Whether either spouse can pay spousal support. The court will balance how much the paying spouse can earn with the other spouse’s ability to support her or himself.

Your current living situation. The court will consider things like your earning potential, career prospects, and issues involving your children.

The needs of each spouse. The court will consider the current and future needs of the spouse who may receive spousal support compared to their age, health and ability to work.

The health of each spouse. A spouse's health is especially relevant if it affects his or her ability to work and meet personal needs.

The prior standard of living of the spouses and whether either spouse has other people to support. Your standard of living during your marriage is a starting point for deciding whether either spouse should pay spousal support. In some cases, a person has the right to continue to enjoy the same quality of life they had during the marriage. If divorce means one spouse will stay at the marital standard of living and the other won’t, the court may use spousal support to even things out.

Fairness. The court may consider what’s fair in your situation.

The court will make a decision about spousal support based on the above factors and anything else that may be important. It does not have to give the same weight to each factor. It must make findings on each relevant factor if one party requests spousal support.