As this blog has discussed on previous occasions, state courts who are hearing a divorce case can award spousal support, which is commonly referred to as alimony. As the name implies, spousal support is a payment, or payments, which one spouse makes for the support of the other spouse so that both can leave their relationship on reasonably solid financial footing. Spousal support is also available following a legal separation, although a court may not be able to be as creative when fashioning an award.
Under the law, a court may consider a number of factors when awarding spousal support. Some of the significant factors a court will consider is how much income each person is currently earning and how much they are each able to earn, given their respective education and experience.
How long the marriage lasted prior to the divorce is also an important consideration, as courts tend to be more likely to award support when a couple has remained married for a long time. Other, less obvious factors may also play in to a court's decision. For instance, the court may inquire as to how long a person may need to get the necessary training or education to increase his earning potential.
The court may also consider how much in property and debt each party is taking following their divorce or separation. By way of example, even if she would not be able to get a high-paying job, someone who will be able to collect a steady supply of income from investments and the like may have a weaker argument that she should also receive alimony.
As readers can see, the question of spousal support is complicated and highly fact-specific. Moreover, judges can vary in their approaches to spousal support considerably.