Spousal Support 101: If you’re thinking about divorce, read this.

Those facing divorce don’t have an easy road ahead of them. Being prepared will ultimately lessen the stress of the situation. With so many decisions to make and aspects to consider, some components will be neglected.

Often, people going through a divorce don’t know exactly what they’re entitled to—and what might be awarded to a soon-to-be-former spouse. I want to give you some important details on spousal support that everyone should know.

What is Spousal Support?

Spousal support (i.e., alimony) includes a variety of components. Rent, mortgage payments, medical expenses, insurance premiums, taxes, and tuition all qualify for spousal support. The overall purpose of spousal support is to lessen the burden on the spouse who earns lower wages than his or her former spouse. An amount of money is awarded to one of the spouses per a written agreement, or by a court-mandated decision.

During a marriage, one spouse oftentimes sacrifices a career in order to stay home and raise children. In such a case, whoever has given up his or her career is obviously unable to continue the standard of living that existed during the marriage. As a result, spousal support is awarded.

What are the determining factors surrounding spousal support?

Unlike child support, there are not mandated guidelines that must be followed. Each case is unique. In fact, the court system has a wide range of criteria when deciding whether or not spousal support will be awarded.

Typically, many factors are considered, including the financial condition of both parties, the duration of the marriage, the standard of living while the marriage existed, physical and emotional issues, and the time that’s needed for the recipient to be self-supporting.

How many years will spousal support be paid out?

Spousal support is not terminated until the date specified on the divorce decree, or until the court makes that decision. In the event that the recipient marries again, spousal support from the former spouse is almost always terminated.

Although it is not typically awarded for the remaining years of one’s life, there are situations when it is permanent. If the spouse is elderly (or has medical issues that hinder him or her from working), he or she may very well receive alimony for the rest of his or her life. In the event that the payer passes away, the payer’s estate (and money from life insurance policies) may very well be granted to the former spouse.

Get help.

Again, no situation is exactly the same, so be sure to seek counseling in regard to what you’re entitled to. Spousal support is a huge piece of the divorce puzzle, and it can be very complicated. By educating yourself, you’re making the divorce process that much smoother.

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA is author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide and host of the Divorce and Your Money Show on iTunes. Learn more at  www.divorceandyourmoney.com.

Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.