Spousal Support

Spousal support is generally classified in two different categories: Temporary spousal support and “permanent” spousal support (which, in fact, is not really permanent).

Spousal support is usually tax deductible to the payor, and taxable to the payee; however, it is important to consult with an attorney or CPA to ensure that a spousal support order qualifies under IRS statues and regulations for this tax treatment.

Temporary spousal support: Temporary spousal support (also known as pendente lite spousal support) is the support that will be paid to the supported spouse between the time of separation and the time the divorce ends, whether by a trial or a negotiated final settlement agreement. The underlying policy for temporary support is to allow the supported spouse to transition from the marital standard of living to the ultimate support received when the divorce ends. Temporary support is usually higher than “permanent” support. A party’s obligation to pay temporary support does not commence until there is a court order or an enforceable written agreement between the parties.

Temporary spousal support is generally a guideline amount that a computer program will generate. Temporary support is fairly predictable and depends on each party’s income, the taxes each party pays, health insurance costs, and other guideline deductions such as mandatory retirement and others.

“Permanent” spousal support: As mentioned above, “permanent” spousal support is not actually permanent. Rather, it is the amount of support that is agreed to or ordered at the end of the divorce process.

  • Amount of “permanent” spousal support cannot be predicted with any certainty because our judges are given very broad discretion and one judge is likely to decide very differently from another judge. Each judge’s determination of the amount of “permanent” support is a complex process based on a variety of factors, including each party’s income, the length of the marriage, each party’s age and health, each party’s marketable skills, marital standard of living, any history of domestic violence, educational backgrounds, and more.
  • Duration of “permanent” support can also vary greatly. After a marriage of less than ten years, “permanent” spousal support will generally continue for about half the length of the marriage, measured from the date of marriage to the date of separation. After a marriage of more than ten years, however, the duration of “permanent” spousal support cannot be predicted with any certainty. Here again, each judge is given broad discretion and one judge may decide very differently from another judge, if at some future date, the paying party asks to terminate spousal support.

Importance of Strategy and Understanding the Underlying Finances: In most cases, a “permanent” support order will depend upon the strategy and financial sophistication of the divorce attorneys involved. Our combination of experienced family law attorneys and Nancy Bickford’s financial background as a CPA, MBA and a speaker at legal seminars about income for support and related tax matters, qualifies us to guide you through this complex process. Our divorce lawyers will strategize with you and when necessary fight for you to achieve the most desirable results possible in this very important matter.

Modification or Termination of Spousal Support: Here also, judges have broad discretion in deciding whether to modify or terminate spousal support. Some of the factors they consider are the marital standard of living, the length of time since separation, a party’s efforts to become self-employed at the highest level reasonably possible, and any changes of circumstances. Here again, our experienced divorce attorneys and Ms. Bickford’s financial background qualify us to negotiate the result for which you hope, or if necessary, to fight for you through litigation.

Learn more about Family Law from the Divorce Attorneys at the firm

If you wish to schedule a consultation with Nancy J. Bickford, call us at (858) 793-8884.


Read a testimonial from a client with spousal support issues