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Spousal Support

Spousal support, also known as "Alimony," is a legal obligation of payment from one spouse to the other in order to ensure that the receiving spouse is made "whole" coming out of the marriage. It most often occurs where one spouse has worked, and the other has not, for a considerable period of time (>5 years).

The purpose of alimony is to help the spouse who may not have worked during the marriage so he/she can become accustomed to unmarried life after the divorce. The ability of the "poorer"spouse to work, get a reasonable income, or perhaps, use the income he/she already has, will play a large factor in the determination of the amount of alimony. Bad acts on the part of each spouse will also play a part in the Court determining if alimony is appropriate. This is one area where adultery and abandonment are still important concepts. Payment of alimony may be made both pendent lite, that is, during the course of the divorce proceedings, and permanent, which occurs through a final order of the Court.

The courts will be reasonable and mindful of not sending a party into bankruptcy during this process if you are the benefactor. Alimony is generally disfavored unless there is a clear and compelling case for it, given that most parties can get employment and live normal lives without significant problem. Also, the parties can agree to avoid alimony in the settlement agreement, or where alimony is appropriate, specify fixed timeframes. As an aside, you cannot bankrupt out of spousal support obligations.

As a general rule, when alimony is appropriate, how long it must be paid is based on the duration of the marriage. If the marriage lasted:

Married <=5 years1 year alimony
Married 6 - years2-3 years alimony
Married 11 -15 years3-5 year alimony
Married 16 - 20 years7 to 10 years alimony
Married >20 yearspermanent alimony

These numbers are based on experience in VA, DC and MD court rulings in cases we have litigated.
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