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Differences Between Temporary Spousal Support and Alimony



Many use the terms "spousal support" and "alimony" interchangeably, not realizing that the two terms are actually separate and distinct legal remedies. Further, alimony and spousal support are not mutually exclusive.

In the most basic terms, alimony and spousal support share the commonality of being payments made from one spouse to the other. Alimony and spousal support can be awarded to either spouse, not just the wife as some wrongly assume. The purpose of alimony and spousal support is to correct the disproportional result created by the divorce for the supported spouse who has fewer financial resources. Sometimes the court will recognize the spouse's contributions to the marital home or to the paying spouse's education or career. If the court refuses to make an award of alimony and/or spousal support, the reason may be attributed to the dual careers of the couple and each party's income-earning potential.

Temporary Spousal Support

Temporary spousal support, or spousal maintenance payments, refers to types of support payments that a party can seek to have paid prior to even filing for a divorce. The only limiting factor is that there must have been a physical separation between the couple.

The specific laws governing spousal support vary by state, so it is prudent to consult the local jurisdiction's detailed laws on the topic. However, notwithstanding the state-specific nuances in the realm of spousal support, a basic and general calculation begins by determining 40 percent of the difference between the two parties' net monthly incomes.

If there are children born to the divorcing couple, and child support is sought, the calculation is affected slightly. The difference between the parties' net monthly incomes is lessened by the amount of the child support awarded, prior to performing the multiplication calculation. Then the multiplier is lessened from 40 percent to 30 percent.

Alimony

Alimony pendente lite is support that can be awarded once divorce papers have been filed and the action has commenced. The formula utilized to calculate the amount of support is the same as that of temporary spousal support.

Individual facts and circumstances usually influence the amount of support awarded as alimony. If the parties' divorce creates some sort of need, disadvantage, or deficiency in the lifestyle of one party to the marriage, that party may petition the local family state court for an award of alimony. The important and critical distinction for alimony awards is that a court will only entertain consideration of it after the couple has finalized the equitable distribution of their marital assets.