What is Spousal Maintenance? How to Know if You Are Owed Support

Separation or divorce is never an easy time in anyone’s life, yet it can be one of the most consequential, in terms of financial ramifications, many people will ever face. There are two types of support that are commonly paid when married couples separate: child support and spousal support, which is sometimes called alimony or maintenance.


How Do Spousal Support, Spousal Maintenance, And Child Support Differ?

For all practical purposes, spousal support and spousal maintenance mean the same thing. Often, if one spouse has a significantly higher income or the couple has significant assets, an agreement may be made where one spouse makes monthly payments to the other to make up for the unexpected financial shortfall in their life.

Legislation mandating support payments varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction: Consult with a spousal maintenance lawyer: Phoenix, AZ, New York, NY, and those in other locations around the nation, are qualified to navigate what is described as “one of the most complicated” areas of family law.

Is Spousal Support Only For Couples Who Were Married?

Not necessarily. Depending on the jurisdiction, couples who have resided together for a certain period of time, or meet other requirements, may be considered common-law partners.

Factors which are said to influence whether or not a couple is indeed common law include the amount of time they have lived together, their respective ages, the ability of each partner to financially support themselves, whether or not either of the partners has gained financially from the other, or whether either spouse has made a significant sacrifice, allowing the other to pursue dreams or financial goals.

What About Married Couples Who Don’t Have Children?

Spousal maintenance and spousal support are separate from child support payments. A man or a woman could conceivably receive both; this is a common arrangement among separated partners who have children together.

Sometimes, couples will reach agreements together, where one spouse receives a significant asset, such as a house or cottage, in lieu of support payments. In other arrangements, support payments may be increased if a couple agrees that one spouse should keep a home, vehicle, or other asset, as well as being financially compensated for it.

It is when couples that are separating cannot come to an amicable agreement with regard to the delicate balance between the division of assets and the amount of monthly spousal support or maintenance that should be paid that lawyers are hired and actions are taken in courts of law.

Is It Ever OK To Stop Paying Spousal Support?

If a judge or other body has ordered that child or spousal support be paid, choosing not to follow their directions could result in legal consequences that are best discussed with a spousal maintenance or support lawyer. Many lawyers are able to advise clients on matters relating to both spousal and child support, as many cases involve both. Consulting with a lawyer before choosing to terminate support payments, without mutual agreement from each spouse, would seem prudent.