Are You Entitled to Spousal Support?

Posted on February 17, 2012 10:54am
Are You Entitled to Spousal Support?

What Is Spousal Support Based On?

Whether or not you qualify for spousal support is based on one's economic need. The courts generally will compare the monthly income against the monthly expenses of the person seeking spousal support to determine economic need.

Will I Qualify for Spousal Support/Alimony?

In most states, the court will consider a variety of factors to decide whether a spouse is entitled to spousal support (also called alimony or spousal maintenance).

Although the court does consider many factors, for spousal support, the primary considerations are:

  1. Whether you have a financial need for spousal support, and
  2. Whether your spouse has an ability to pay you.

How Do I Show the Need for Spousal Support?

The exact information courts require to determine whether you are entitled to spousal support depends on what factors your court considers. Typically, courts want to know the following information:


Generally, you will need to show the court your expenses. You should gather your bills to show the court what your living expenses are. Be sure to factor in things like your groceries and personal care expenses. You will also need to show the court your income.

You should also provide the court with as much information about your spouse's finances as you can. You may need to conduct discovery (a way of getting information from someone else in a court case) to get information about your spouse's income and expenses. If your spouse has excess income while you have a monthly deficit, you are more likely to be awarded spousal support.

Health and Age

If you have a medical condition that affects your ability to work or requires significant medical treatment, you may be entitled to spousal support. In many instances, the court will award spousal support only for a limited time (such as a period from 1 to 10 years, depending on your circumstances). However, if you have an ongoing medical condition that prevents employment or are of an age when it is unreasonable to expect you to return to work, the court may award you permanent spousal support.

The court might also consider whether you or your spouse are near retirement age and how retirement will affect your financial needs and resources.

Education and Employment

If there is a disparity in your and your spouse's level of education, the court may consider that in awarding spousal support. For example, if your spouse has a professional degree that enables him or her to earn a larger income while you do not have such a degree or future earning power, a court may order that your spouse pay you spousal support.

Also, if you have been unemployed as a stay-at-home parent or stay-at-home spouse or under-employed because you have served as the parent who primarily handles child rearing duties, the court may award you spousal support. The award may be limited to what the court believes necessary to allow you to re-enter the workforce full-time or increase your level of education or experience.

Length of Marriage

Most states consider the length of the marriage in determining both the duration and amount of spousal support. Courts generally look to whether the marriage was short- or long-term. While courts generally do not award lifetime spousal support, for a long-term marriage (more than 25 years in most states), the lesser earning spouse may be awarded spousal support for a longer period of time.

If your marriage is long-term and your spouse's ability to meet his or her financial needs is greater than yours, you may be entitled to spousal support, and depending on your ability to meet your needs in the future, you may be entitled to long-term (or possibly lifetime) support.

Bad Behavior

In most states, a spouse's bad behavior (such as an affair) does not affect spousal support. If a spouse's abusive behavior has prevented the requesting spouse from obtaining necessary education or employment, that behavior might affect an award of spousal support because it has affected the earning power of the requesting spouse. Because spousal support is generally based on need and ability to pay, if your spouse's bad behavior has put you in greater need for assistance, you are more likely to be awarded spousal support.

More Information on Spousal Support

This list is certainly not exhaustive, and your state may consider other factors or weigh the factors differently in determining if you are entitled to spousal support. You should consult the laws of your state to determine the factors that the court will use in deciding whether you will be awarded spousal support and how each factor may weigh in your favor.

For more information on what to expect during a divorce, contact a McKinley Irvin divorce attorney.

Please be advised that family law cases can be very complex and are different for everyone, based on unique circumstances. The information provided here should not be construed as legal advice in your case.

McKinley Irvin proudly serves Washington State and Oregon with offices in Seattle, Bellevue, Tacoma, Puyallup, Vancouver and Portland. Contact our family law offices to set up an appointment with a McKinley Irvin family attorney.

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