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Spousal Support: Information from Do-It-Yourself Divorce with a Legal Document Assistant

Spousal Support is an area of divorce that is extremely contentious. The length of time spousal support is payable depends upon the length of the marriage, financial circumstances of the parties, and whether one partner did not work outside the home. In a short-term marriage, under ten years, one spouse MAY be granted spousal support.  If a couple is married 9 years, one spouse might be awarded spousal support for 4.5 years, one-half the length of the marriage.  Once a marriage is past ten years, spousal support for an indefinite number of years is Possible, again, depending upon the circumstances of the marriage.  For example, if the supported party is disabled and the marriage lasted ten years, it is possible that spousal support could be ordered for an indefinite period of time.  In general, the Court does not want a young, healthy person to rely upon Spousal Support, but to become self-supporting.  Therefore, a marriage that lasted ten to fifteen years, taking into consideration factors like age, health, education, work experience, or having been home with children, may be granted spousal support for ten years or more, depending upon what the judge deems fair and necessary.  Once a marriage has endured between 15 to 20 years, the lenth of time for which spousal support might be awarded lengthens, again relative to the earning power of each party, whether one party was at home with children while the other party built a career, and the job prospects of the spouse to be supported.  Once a marriage has endured 20 years or beyond, it is possible that spousal support will be ordered for the rest of the supported person’s lifetime. Judges have latitude to adjust spousal support up or down at a future time, but the factors used to determine  a change in the award of spousal  support are different than what is considered for child support. In a long-term marriage, Spousal Support is meant to adjust for the advantage the higher-earning spouse has in being able to continue working at a lucrative job, whereas the lower-earning or at-home spouse will in most cases not be able to catch up to the earning power of a person who spent decades building a career. Like all aspects of a divorce, spousal support can be negotiated and written into a Marital Settlement Agreement. Rather than have a judge impose an order, there is less emotional damage if an amount that both parties can agree to can be arrived at and written into your Marital Settlement Agreement.

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