Can Spousal Support Be Permanent?


When going through a divorce, there are numerous critical issues that need to be resolved between you and your spouse. One such significant matter is spousal support, also known as alimony. Spousal support involves one spouse providing financial assistance to the other following a divorce, helping them adjust to their new financial reality after the marriage has ended. Though not applicable to every divorce settlement, spousal support remains an essential concern for many couples.

In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of spousal support, including its determination, duration, negotiation, and different types. By understanding these key aspects, you can better navigate the process and ensure that both parties are treated fairly.

How Spousal Support is Determined

Standard of Living

One of the primary factors determining spousal support is the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage. If the court finds that you cannot maintain the same standard of living after the divorce, you may qualify for spousal support. The court will consider both your income and your spouse’s income to determine if spousal support is necessary.

Additional Considerations

Various other factors are considered when calculating the amount of spousal support. These include the resources and financial situation of each party, the income earned by each party, and the duration of the marriage.

Length of Marriage and Its Impact on Spousal Support

Spousal Support Based on Marriage Duration

The length of your marriage can significantly influence the duration of spousal support. Different states have varying guidelines:

  • Marriages lasting 1 year: Up to 6 months of support.
  • Marriages lasting 5 years: Up to 2.5 years of support.
  • Marriages lasting 10 years: Up to 5 years of support.
  • Marriages lasting 15 years: More than 7.5 years of support.
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For marriages shorter than 10 years, spousal support is less common, and if awarded, it will typically have a specified end date usually half the length of the marriage or less. However, if the marriage lasts more than 10 years, spousal support may be awarded for a decade or even longer.

Negotiating for Spousal Support

If you believe you are entitled to spousal support, you will need to negotiate with your spouse during the divorce process. Understanding the factors considered in a trial can help in this negotiation, including earning capacity, income, and the length of the marriage.

Mediation as a Resolution Method

Mediation can be a beneficial approach for couples seeking an amicable resolution. A mediator acts as a neutral party and assists in finding fair solutions to disputes, including matters related to spousal support. Employing a financial neutral can also be helpful for analyzing the financial situation and planning for the future.

Financial Disclosures in the Process

During the divorce process, both spouses are required to provide financial disclosures to one another. This is crucial for determining the support owed and other financial outcomes. In most cases, spousal support is temporary, even if it extends for a substantial period.

Long-Term Spousal Support

Factors Influencing Long-Term Support

Long-term spousal support is sought by some individuals, especially when they lack a sizable income. The amount of long-term support is influenced by factors such as the ability to maintain the standard of living established during the marriage, the support provided to the payor for education, each spouse’s assets and needs, age, health, tax consequences, and any other relevant factors.

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Modifiable vs. Non-Modifiable Long-Term Spousal Support

Modifiable long-term spousal support allows for changes in the support duration based on circumstances. Non-modifiable support, on the other hand, remains fixed according to the terms set by the court. This option is typically used when the support amount is relatively small or the payor is exceedingly wealthy.

The End of Long-Term Spousal Support

The termination of long-term spousal support varies by state, and it may end if either party remarries or enters into a new cohabitation arrangement.

Spousal Support Terms to Know

  • Alimony Buyout: This involves making a single lump-sum payment to fulfill the total spousal support obligation.
  • Financial Neutral: A professional who helps with asset valuation, projecting the needs of each spouse, and budgeting.
  • Rehabilitative (Short-Term) Support: Temporary support to aid the dependent spouse in returning to the workforce.
  • Reserving Jurisdiction: Allowing spousal support to be addressed post-divorce decree, commonly used for lengthy marriages.
  • Standard of Living: The degree of comfort each spouse experienced during the marriage.

Seeking Spousal Support

To receive spousal support, you must include it in your settlement agreement and request it accordingly. The judge will assess the fairness of the amount and the payor’s ability to make the payments.


Spousal support is a crucial aspect of divorce proceedings, especially when there is a significant income disparity between the spouses. Understanding the factors that influence spousal support, the duration based on marriage length, and the options for negotiation can help both parties navigate this complex issue more effectively. Mediation and financial disclosures can also be valuable tools in reaching a fair and amicable agreement.

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Divorce is undoubtedly a challenging time, but being well-informed about spousal support can make the process smoother and lead to more satisfactory outcomes for both parties.


  1. Is spousal support mandatory in every divorce? Spousal support is not mandatory in every divorce; it depends on various factors, including the standard of living and the financial situation of both spouses.
  2. Can the duration of spousal support be modified after the divorce is finalized? The duration of spousal support may be modified if specific circumstances change, but this depends on whether it was classified as modifiable or non-modifiable in the original divorce decree.
  3. What is the role of a mediator in spousal support negotiations? A mediator acts as a neutral third party who assists the couple in finding fair solutions to disputes, including matters related to spousal support.
  4. How long can long-term spousal support last? The duration of long-term spousal support varies by state and can end if either party remarries or enters into a new cohabitation arrangement.
  5. How can I request spousal support during my divorce? To request spousal support, you must include it as part of your settlement agreement and ask for it during the divorce proceedings. The judge will then assess its fairness and feasibility based on the relevant factors.

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