In family law, when a person files for divorce, the judge will often order one spouse to support the other during the lawsuit, and may also require that spouse to pay the other's legal expenses. And at the end of the lawsuit, the judge might also order one spouse to support the other in the future. The term spousal support is used interchangeably with the terms alimony and maintenance.
In situations in which once spouse has been out of the workforce for an extended period of time, it becomes increasingly problematic to secure a job or professional position that would enable that spouse to maintain the standard of living that existed while the couple was married.
Most couples try to come to some agreement as to how the property will be divided and how much support, if any, one will pay the other and for how long. If the parties can't agree, the judge will decide the issues of property division, child support rights, and spousal support. It should be noted that less then twenty percent of all divorces still have spousal support.
In determining spousal support the court will consider many factors, including the amount of money and property each spouse currently has, their individual income, the age and physical condition of the spouse seeking support, the standard of living during the marriage, and how long the parties were married.
Unlike child support, which is based on specific monetary guidelines, courts have broad discretion in determining whether to award alimony and, if so, how much and for how long.
The Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, requires courts consider how long it's been since either of the spouses have worked, the condition of the current labor market, how long it will take for a spouse to become qualified for employment, the length of the marriage and whether the spouse seeking the child support is the custodial or legal parent of a child.
In most jurisdictions, the issue of whether or not there was physical or mental cruelty in the marriage is no longer relevant to the determination of alimony.
Finally, laws governing family law issues are jurisdictional based, particularly if a jurisdiction is operating under a different property law system - "common law" system as opposed to "community property" systems. Since the division of property and the determination of support obligations are extremely important matters, it is best to be represented by a family law attorney who is familiar with the family law courts in your jurisdiction.
For more information on the 2009 Family Law codes, including divorce and separation laws, child custody, spousal support and local divorce lawyers go to GotTrouble.com