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Spousal Support: How is Alimony Calculated?

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. | Last updated on

No loving couple enters into a marriage contemplating divorce. But, alas, divorce happens. And when it does, it leaves many spouses wondering what criteria are used to calculate alimony. That and how much spousal support they should expect to pay or receive.

The truth is, alimony support varies widely depending on your financial situation.

It can also be contingent on your state's laws. But what are some of the usual factors a court will look at when they determine spousal support?

Income and earning capacity of each spouse.

A court will often look at how much income each spouse has, and how much they are expected to make. Whether or not one spouse is projected to earn a lot more money may become a significant factor when figuring out alimony support. But what if one spouse is unable to generate income as a result of an illness or disability? In these types of situations a court may award permanent alimony to the impaired spouse.

The presence of children at home.

Whether or not the divorcing spouses have children at home can also be an important factor. Courts may award alimony so that the stay-at-home parent may only need to work part-time so they can take care of the kids.

Standard of living during the marriage.

If someone was married to the rich prince and enjoyed luxury cars, diamond jewelry and private yacht vacations, they were probably accustomed to a certain standard of living. When they divorce their prince this "standard" may become a factor in how much spousal support they receive.

Fault can be a factor in some states.

In some states, fault is not a factor when determining alimony. In other states it is. So if one spouse cheated on another and caused the end of the marriage, it could be a factor in alimony payments depending on your jurisdiction.

Of course, these factors won't be the only ones a court will use to calculate alimony. In most cases judges have a broad discretion when it comes to determining spousal support. All divorces are different, though, and many divorces also involve dividing up of marital property. So you'd be wise to speak to a qualified divorce attorney if things are a little more complicated.

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