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Do You Have to Pay Alimony During the Legal Separation?

If you're in the process of filing for divorce, you may be entitled to, or obligated to pay, temporary alimony while legally separated.

In many instances, one spouse may be entitled to temporary support during the legal separation to pay for essential monthly expenses such as housing, food and other necessities. When deciding whether to grant a request for temporary alimony, the family law judge will look at several factors based on divorce laws in your state.

Does One Spouse Need Alimony During the Legal Separation?

Need is one of the primary factors that a judge is likely to consider when reviewing a request for temporary support. Does one spouse need temporary payments in order to pay for not only necessities, but also to maintain his or her standard of living? If the spouse has other funds, such as outside income or savings, then a judge usually wouldn't grant temporary alimony because the need does not exist.

Can the Other Spouse Afford to Pay Temporary Support?

When a judge looks at whether the other spouse can afford to pay temporary support, the judge is actually looking at two factors:

  1. Does the other spouse have the money available to pay temporary support? 
  2. And how will a support award affect this spouse's ability to pay for his or her own necessities and maintain his or her own standard of living?

When determining whether one spouse has the ability to pay, the judge will look at that person's income, bonuses and overtime, as well as Social Security benefits and other income.

If Temporary Support Is Granted

If the judge agrees with the request for temporary support, the ruling will explain how much must be paid, how frequently it must be paid, and how long the payments will last. Judges typically will not grant retroactive requests for temporary support.

Requesting Modification of the Temporary Support

Only in rare situations will a court agree to change the amount of temporary support. If you request such a change, you will need to show a compelling reason why it should be modified.

The courts are likely to consider your request if it is being made because of a change in financial circumstances. For example, a modification request might be granted if one spouse has involuntarily lost his or her job or if an illness has made it difficult for one spouse to work.