May 17, 2019
Though spousal support often seems to receive the most attention in a divorce, it’s usually not determined until later in the divorce proceedings. Only after a plan is in place for dividing property and other assets can the need for either spouse to receive or pay spousal support be fully understood.
The amount of support either spouse is entitled to—if any—is determined by state law. In general, the calculation is based on five factors:
The purpose of spousal support is to limit any unfair economic impact to a non-wage-earning or lower-wage-earning spouse in a divorce by providing that spouse with an ongoing income. In addition to the five factors mentioned above, the court usually considers non-marital assets and whether minor children are involved when determining need.
Some courts award rehabilitative maintenance when calculating spousal support, which gives one spouse temporary financial help until he or she is financially independent. This allows the recipient time to go back to school or gain the skills necessary to find a job.
Unlike property division, spousal support can be modified after the court’s decision has been made. While this feature can provide relief if either spouse’s financial circumstances shift dramatically in the future, modifying spousal support often requires more time and money in court. For this reason, some couples prefer non-modifiable spousal support to prevent another potential disruption.
In addition, although an end date is typically given on spousal support, it can end early for one of two reasons—either the payor or recipient spouse dies, or the recipient spouse remarries. In the event of an unexpected death, certain tactics like taking out a life insurance policy on the payor spouse can be used to ensure that the recipient spouse continues to collect support.
After the court makes its determination on spousal support, there are no guarantees that the payor spouse will abide by the ruling. Fortunately, there are other methods that can help the recipient receive payment, including:
Like most aspects of divorce, going through the process of determining spousal support can create undue emotional and financial stress without proper preparation. Whether you think you’re entitled to receive spousal support or may have to pay it, be sure to consult with your legal and financial advisors to ensure that your interests are fairly represented.
Cathy Schnaubelt is a senior wealth strategist for CIBC Private Wealth Management's Houston office, with more than 35 years of industry experience. In this role, Cathy is responsible for the development of integrated wealth management solutions and provides comprehensive estate and financial planning services to high net worth clients.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com on April 8, 2019
Beth McRae Mayfield
May 30, 2019
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