Myth 1: Spousal support must always be paid by the person who earns more money, no matter what
Spousal support is not a guarantee. As described above, entitlement to spousal support must be established before amount and duration are even considered. Just because one spouse earns more money than the other spouse does not in itself mean that spousal support will be owed. Spousal support is not awarded in every single case.
Generally speaking, the longer a relationship lasts, and the more one spouse depended on the other spouse’s income during the relationship; the more likely spousal support could be owed by the higher income earning spouse.
Myth 2: Spousal support must always be paid for the rest of the spouses’ lives
Generally speaking, the longer the relationship lasted, the more likely the duration of spousal support is extended. The “rule of 65” says that if the age of the recipient spouse at the time of separation, added to the number of years of the relationship, equals or is greater than 65, then that spouse (if entitlement has already been established) is eligible for indefinite spousal support, that is, spousal support with no fixed end date but can still be reviewed each year or upon a material change in circumstances for either spouse.
It is also common for spousal support to be secured by having the payer spouse take out a life insurance policy and name the recipient spouse as the beneficiary.
However it would be incorrect to say spousal support is paid by one spouse to the other for life in every situation. For example, if two young spouses in good health with no children and similar incomes separate, then it is highly unlikely that any spousal support would be paid.
Myth 3: Spousal support no longer needs to be paid once the recipient spouse re-marries or cohabits with a new spouse
Again, because spousal support is so fact-specific, there mere fact that the spouse receiving spousal support re-marries or starts to live with a new partner does not mean spousal support automatically stops being paid. Re-marriage or cohabitation with a new partner can certainly be a significant factor in determining whether spousal support should continue to be paid in certain circumstances, but it does not always signal a termination of spousal support. It depends on the nature of the recipient spouse’s entitlement to spousal support.
For example, if the recipient spouse was a stay-at-home mom for decades during her relationship with the paying spouse, then the fact that she re-marries or cohabits with another person after separation likely would not affect the spousal support she receives from the paying spouse. This is because her entitlement to spousal support is based primarily on the fact that she contributed to the family in non-monetary ways, by raising the children and maintaining the household, and entering into a new relationship does not usually alter her compensation for such contributions.
Another example: if the recipient spouse did not stay at home to care for the children during the relationship, but was disabled in some way, then the fact that the recipient spouse re-marries or cohabits with another person after separation likely would trigger a review of the spousal support being paid, to determine whether spousal support should continue to be paid. This is because the recipient spouse’s entitlement to spousal support is based more on need for support due to his disability, and that need may now be partially or completely met by the new partner.
Myth: My friend received/paid X dollars from/to his/her ex, so I should get the same treatment
Every single family law case is different, so comparing your situation to your friend’s situation will not help understand your own case.
It is important to speak with a family law lawyer if you are undergoing a separation in order to fully understand your rights and entitlements when it comes to spousal support.
Jennifer Lin exclusively practices family law, representing numerous clients on matters of spousal support. Visit Jennifer’s profile page to contact her.
Tags: Jennifer M. Lin, Family Law, Spousal Support, Article