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When Does Spousal Support Stop?

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. | Last updated on

Whether you give or receive spousal support, you likely feel some type of way about it. Most spouses are not eager to spend their lives supporting an ex financially. Similarly, the recipient of support can feel resentful about the amount of money received or even the need for it.

But spousal support is necessarily not about feelings. It's about needs, ensuring that the end of a union does not mean financial ruin for a former spouse who earns less or no money and relied on their partner. The period of support varies widely and will depend not only on state law but also personal circumstances. Generally, it lasts as long as necessary, which can be as long as a lifetime but may be less. Support stops when the need for it officially ends.

Duration of Support

State law and personal circumstances will dictate how long spousal support will last in any particular case. In some states, moving in with a new partner is enough to signal financial independence. Some states don't look at cohabitation but draw the line at having children with a new partner. All states agree that no spousal support will be paid to an ex upon their remarriage.

The person who seeks to end the support payments must petition the court for an order modifying their obligations or terminating them altogether. So if you owe support and get an invitation to your ex's wedding, don't just stop sending the support checks and start celebrating your financial freedom.

Support Reform

Lifetime alimony made sense in a society where men brought home the money and women raised the children at home. Now, most American families require two incomes to survive, women work and are well educated, and the expectation of a lifetime of financial support from an ex no longer seems reasonable in many situations.

In 2011, Massachusetts passed a spousal support reform bill that ended mandatory lifetime alimony payments where the recipient cohabits with another. It was the first state to take on support reform, starting a trend of reexamination of divorce and support laws nationwide in light of societal changes.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you are already divorced or are just contemplating it and are concerned about spousal support or any other issue, speak to a lawyer.

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