In many situations where a marriage ends, one spouse becomes obligated to pay support to the other after the divorce. The support, which can be called maintenance or alimony or spousal support, is intended to ensure that a lower-earning spouse doesn’t become unable to support him/herself or experience a significant decline in his or her standard of living post-marriage.
If you make more money than your spouse, it is natural to be worried about the amount of support that you are going to end up paying to your ex-husband or ex-wife. An experienced divorce lawyer can help you to determine the likely answer to this question, since every case is different and the amount of support you will need to pay is determined by your specific situation.
How Much Spousal Support Do I Have to Pay in a Divorce?
The first consideration when determining the amount of support you are going to end up paying in a divorce is whether you have a premarital agreement (a prenup) or a postmarital agreement. If your premarital or postmarital agreement contains a limitation on spousal support; a formula for calculating support; or a waiver of support, this generally should be applicable in your divorce. This means that you’ll pay the amount of support that was agreed upon in the contract.
If there is no prenuptial agreement, then the next major factor in determining the amount of support is whether you and your spouse can negotiate the terms of the divorce settlement out of court. If you can come to an agreement with your spouse on property, custody division and asset division, then you will have more control over how much support has to be made. Of course, you’ll still need to get your spouse to agree to your proposed support amount— but a mediator and your divorce attorney can help you to come to an agreement that works for everyone and that hopefully keeps your support obligation reasonable.
If there’s no premarital agreement and you cannot come to an out-of-court agreement, then the divorce is going to be litigated. Essentially, this means that a judge hears your argument and the arguments made by your spouse and then decides on child custody; the division of your marital assets; and the support obligation you have.
If a judge decides on support, the law dictates things that should be considered in calculating what you owe. For example, factors that affect the amount of support you are going to need to pay include:
- How long you and your spouse were married (longer marriage leads to more support).
- How much more you earn than your spouse.
- Whether your spouse has skills or abilities that could allow him/her to earn a living.
- The extent to which your spouse sacrificed his or her career for the family or for your career.
- Any health issues that might make it difficult for your spouse to work.
The alimony or support award may be temporary or permanent and the longer the marriage and the bigger earnings/skills discrepancy that exists, the more likely it is that you will have to pay higher amounts of support. An experienced divorce lawyer can evaluate your situation and help you to understand better what the support obligation will be in your case.