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Can a Family Law Attorney Deal With Spousal Support Issues?

Posted On April 15, 2024 In Alimony,Family Law

A family lawyer in Arizona or elsewhere supports clients through all legal processes that impact their family life. While most commonly associated with divorce law, family attorneys also navigate child custody for non-married parents, paternity, and even child adoption. One of the most hotly contentious issues in family court is spousal support—sometimes called alimony. Family law attorneys represent clients on both sides of this often adversarial issue through out-of-court negotiations for a settlement agreement or in court.

Before you take a position on a spousal support issue in your divorce, it helps to know why family courts issue spousal support orders, what they typically entail, and how a Chandler family law attorney can help.

What Is Spousal Support?

Spousal support is what’s more commonly called alimony. Courts issue spousal support orders in some divorces to address a significant income disparity between spouses that would leave one spouse facing financial hardship or a decline in their accustomed lifestyle after a divorce. Because marriage is a legal contract as well as an emotional bond, breaking the contract comes with legal consequences, one of which may be spousal support. Typically, spousal support orders are temporary, paid from a higher-earning spouse to a lower-earner or non-working spouse for a limited time or until they gain self-sufficiency. Spousal support orders automatically terminate if the receiving spouse remarries.

What Are the Three Types of Spousal Support Orders?

Spousal support is usually a temporary order but may be permanent under limited circumstances. The court categorizes spousal support under three different types:

  1. Temporary Spousal Maintenance: this is a temporary order for spousal support during the divorce process to address an immediate need for an economically disadvantaged spouse during the divorce.
  2. Rehabilitative Spousal Support: this order provides spousal support from the higher-earning spouse to the lower-earning spouse until they increase their earning capability through continued education or by finding employment or increasing their hours or earnings.
  3. Permanent Alimony: this is a long-term spousal support order paid from one spouse to the other indefinitely or until the receiving spouse’s remarriage or death.

Permanent spousal support or alimony is less common and typically only awarded after a long marriage or when one spouse’s age or physical health prevents them from joining or returning to the workforce.

When Is a Spouse Eligible for Spousal Support After a Divorce?

Unlike child support, spousal support isn’t an automatic obligation for one spouse after a divorce. Instead, the courts look at the individual circumstances of each case, including the division and distribution of the spouses’ marital assets. A judge might award spousal support from one spouse to the other under the following circumstances:

  • One spouse has insufficient income and property to support themselves after the divorce
  • A spouse has a young child or medically fragile child to care for after the divorce
  • One spouse sacrificed or delayed their education or career advancement to support the other spouse’s education and career advancement
  • One spouse sacrificed or delayed their career advancement to take care of the children and home
  • A spouse’s age, medical condition, or mental health makes it difficult for them to become self-sufficient

An experienced Chandler family lawyer can help divorcing spouses address any spousal support issues while forming a divorce settlement agreement or in court litigation.