How does spousal support work? 20 Answers as of May 27, 2011

My husband and I have been married for two years and separated (not legally) for 2 months. All of our debt is under my name (car loan and credit cards) since my credit was better than his, but he was the one making the money. Will he have to continue making the payments on the debt, will this be included on spousal support, or are those two different issues? He was also paying for everything else, rent, car and health insurance, groceries, etc. He basically supported both of us. Am I entitled to spousal support? I am working part time (not enough to support myself) and always on the look for a better job, but what do I do in the meantime? We are on agreement that he will continue to pay the bills, but how can I protect myself (and my credit) if he changes his mind?

Ask a Local Attorney. 100% Anonymous. Free Answers.

Free Case Evaluation by a Local Lawyer: Click here
Law Office of Curry & Westgate
Law Office of Curry & Westgate | Patrick Curry
You may get spousal support but it will be for a very short time, probably 6-8 months. The bills and debts are separate from support.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/27/2011
Michael Apicella
Michael Apicella | Apicella Law and Mediation
Getting court orders on payments of existing debts while the divorce is pending (and afterwards) is a separate issue than spousal support. However, getting an order on paying certain joint debts can affect the amount of spousal support one may have to pay. As to whether you are entitled to spousal support, keep in mind there are two types: 1. Temporary (or "guideline") support, and 2. Long term support. Each category of support is determined using different methods. You can run a "DissoMaster" calculation to determine what, if any, temporary support you may be entitled to. From the few facts stated in your question, you just may be entitled to some amount. You can call a local family law lawyer and ask him/her to run temporary support calculations for you. He/she will need both parties income and certain expenses and deductions. As for long term spousal support, see family code section 4320 for the factors that a judge will consider to determine an amount (if any). As for duration, it is typically half the length of the marriage, which in your case, is short. That duration can also include any temporary payments. Thus, if you received temp support for 6 months, then you would only be entitled to 6 months of long term support. As for protecting your credit, any creditor will not care about a divorce. I.e., it is no excuse to a creditor that you didn't pay because you couldn't afford the payment, since husband was no longer paying. If you can't pay debt that is in your name, as said above, you can request immediate court orders to have husband pay that debt while the divorce is pending, or request a temporary spousal support order. Yet, while waiting for any requested order, you should try to make arrangements with your creditor to avoid delinquency. I'd suggest that you hire a local family law lawyer to help you. If you can't afford a lawyer, you may be able to get an order that husband pay such legal fees. See family code section 2030 and 2032. Good luck!
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 5/27/2011
Fox Law Firm LLC
Fox Law Firm LLC | Tina Fox
You need to hire an attorney to protect your rights. It is good that you two have come up with some sort of an agreement, in fact, it will save time with the attorneys. However, you need to make sure that your agreements are/become legal and have standing with the court. I encourage you to contact our office today to schedule a free 30 minute consultation to discuss your divorce options.
Answer Applies to: Illinois
Replied: 5/27/2011
Fredric H. Aaron, Attorney at Law, P.C.
Fredric H. Aaron, Attorney at Law, P.C. | Fredric Harlan Aaron
Your question has a number of parts, so I will address each one separately. First, with respect to the marital debt, under equitable distribution, even though the debt is in your name, this will be split equally between the two of you if you cannot agree to a resolution of this issue. The only exception is if one of you can show that only the other one benefited from the good or service for which the debt was incurred. Second, with respect to spousal support (known as "maintenance" in New York State), the fact that you have only been married for two years will undermine your claim. In addition, the fact that you are currently employed will also work against you. However, his better employment and payment for most of the marital expenses could help bolster the claim for maintenance. Finally, with respect to debt payment, since having a good credit rating for both of you is vital, you can seek an order having him make most of the payments, until you obtain better employment.
Answer Applies to: New York
Replied: 5/27/2011
Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler
Law Office of Robert L. Fiedler | Robert L Fiedler
You re not protected on anything unless it becomes a court order. If you have not filed for divorce or separation, he has no obligation other than what a good spouse would do but it cannot be enforced. I would suggest that you get something started in court and file a motion concerning support and the like. Family services should be able to help the two of you fashion an agreement that protects you.
Answer Applies to: Connecticut
Replied: 5/27/2011
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law
    John E. Kirchner, Attorney at Law | John Kirchner
    There are no fixed rules for spousal support; any decision by a judge will involve an examination of all the facts and circumstances in your case. The general principle involves a balancing of your ability to support yourself against his ability to pay support. The existence of marital debt solely in your name is significant and the court could require him to continue paying those debts or, instead, require him to pay you enough spousal support directly so that you can continue paying those debts. With a short term marriage you are not likely to get spousal support for very long after the divorce is final, but you should be able to receive it while the case is going on. You should consult with an attorney who can better analyze your situation and advised you of the possible outcomes to expect.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Law Office of James Lentz
    Law Office of James Lentz | James Lentz
    In Michigan and Ohio spousal support is not automatic it is at the discretion of the court.Your circumstances sound as if they MAY warrant support, but given the short term of your marriage it probably would not be for a long period of time. And again, support determination be it temporary or permanent is up to the judge. As this is a local issue, please consult with a local family law practitioner about your rights and concerns.
    Answer Applies to: Ohio
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Seattle Divorce Services
    Seattle Divorce Services | Michael V. Fancher
    Under Washington law, debt and spousal support are really two different things. Given that you have only been married two years, I doubt that the court would grant more than a few months of spousal support, if any. Property and debt are generally divided, though since your husband has more income, it might give a larger settlement to you, and it might require him to take on more of the debt. Please consult with an attorney in your area to find out more about what to expect, as well as ideas on how a settlement could be structured to address your concerns.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Goolsby Law Office
    Goolsby Law Office | Richard Goolsby
    It is important that you contact a divorce attorney in your community for a consultation about ALL the issues in your divorce, including whether or not, based upon the facts and law, you might be able to seek an order of alimony, (or spousal support), whether it be temporary or permanent. Good luck!
    Answer Applies to: Georgia
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    The Davies Law Firm, P.A.
    The Davies Law Firm, P.A. | Robert F. Davies, Esq.
    You protect yourself from him changing his mind by speaking with me, and getting an agreement in place and signed by both of you, and then filed and signed by the Judge. You can do this without filing for divorce. I can explain it to you at our first meeting, and I will not charge you for the first meeting. Give me a call, make an appointment to come see me, and let's get moving on this for you. No charge for the first office visit. I know people worry about how expensive a lawyer is, so I am careful to be as inexpensive as I can for my clients. Before you spend a dime, you will know how much this is likely to be.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP
    Cody and Gonillo, LLP | Christine Gonilla
    In short marriages alimony is unlikely but bill payment coverage is likely.
    Answer Applies to: Connecticut
    Replied: 5/27/2011
    Beaulier Law Office
    Beaulier Law Office | Maury Beaulier
    The answer to your question is not a simple one. Although on its face, it would seem as if some spousal maintenance is likely, it would require a review of all circumstances surrounding the case. Unlike Minnesota's child support statutes, there are no percentage guidelines to determine when spousal maintenance is appropriate or at what level. In Minnesota, trial courts have broad discretion in deciding whether to award maintenance and in determining its duration and amount. As a result, spousal maintenance often becomes one of the most contested issues in divorce proceedings. Currently, spousal maintenance awards are granted pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 518.552 if the spouse seeking maintenance demonstrates that he or she: (1) lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned as part of the divorce to provide for the reasonable needs of the spouse considering the standard of living established during the marriage, especially, but not limited to, a period of training or education; or (2) is unable to provide adequate self-support, after considering the standard of living established during the marriage and all relevant circumstance, through appropriate employment, or (3) is the custodian of a child whose condition and circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home. In determining the amount and duration of spousal maintenance, Minnesota statutes require that Courts address all relevant factors. The statute specifically identifies the following as relevant issues in determining spousal maintenance: (1) The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance; (2) The amount of time that is necessary for the spouse seeking maintenance to acquire necessary skills or education to find appropriate employment; (3) The age and physical and emotional health of the recipient spouse; (4) The standard of living established during the marriage; (5) The length of the marriage; (6) The contribution and economic sacrifices of a homemaker including loss of seniority, retirement benefits and other employment opportunities foregone while working at home (7) The financial resources available to the spouse from whom maintenance is sought. No single factor is dispositive and the Courts must weigh all factors giving appropriate weight to each.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 5/26/2011
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser
    Warner Center Law Offices of Donald F. Conviser | Donald F. Conviser
    Your spousal support would be payable only for 1/2 the duration of the marriage, i.e., 1 year. Spousal Support is based on his income and your income, and you would likely receive a higher amount of Temporary Spousal Support than you would receive after a Judgment, but the case may not go to Judgment within a year, depending on what each party does in the case, and the Court's calendar congestion. The debt is community debt, for which each of you is equally liable. Spousal Support and debt responsibility are separate items. The Court would likely apportion the debt 50/50 between you and your husband, unless the debt significantly exceeds the value of the assets, in which case you can request that the Court allocate all or the majority of the debt to your husband. However, you have a practical problem: the debt was all incurred in your name, so the creditors can still look to you for payment, even if the debt was assigned to your husband to pay, if he doesn't pay the debt - in that case, you would have to go back to Court to seek an order requiring your husband to reimburse you for debt that was assigned to your husband. If you husband declares bankruptcy, you would be stuck with all the debt. If you declare bankruptcy, the creditors can go after your husband, since debt incurred during the marriage is community debt, even if incurred in only one party's name.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/26/2011
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn
    Law Office of L. Paul Zahn | Paul Zahn
    Spousal support and debt payment are potentially two separate things. Spousal support is determined based upon the relative earnings of the parties, the length of the marriage, and other relevant factors. If you have little to no ability to pay the debts of the community (even after payment of spousal support) the court does have the authority to order him to pay, although he would likely be given credit against spousal support for your half of the debt service (though not always). If you are in my area and are looking for an attorney, please contact me for a free consultation.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 5/26/2011
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C.
    Michael Anthony Wing, P.C. | Michael Anthony Wing
    You may convince the judge to allow you temporary support, but your length of marriage is not very long. Generally, the debt will be treated differently from support. The court will make a division that it deems equitable or fair. The problem is that your creditors can still pursue you if he fails to pay as ordered which would force you to return to the divorce court to attempt to have him held in contempt. Stay well.
    Answer Applies to: Alabama
    Replied: 5/26/2011
    Edward Papa, Esq.
    Edward Papa, Esq. | Edward Papa
    If you have an agreement the best way to resolve would be to memorialize it in a separation agreement. It is not a guarantee as the creditors are not bound by your agreement and if your husband stops paying for any reason they will come to you.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 5/26/2011
    Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law
    Howard W. Collins, Attorney at Law | Howard W. Collins
    These are all very good questions which if I attempted to answer them by an email would take a long time. What did you do before your marriage? Were you working? Are you making as much money today as you were before the marriage? The debt issues are different but related to spousal support. Spousal support is very rare in a two year marriage. Call to discuss further.
    Answer Applies to: Oregon
    Replied: 5/26/2011
    Beresford Booth PLLC
    Beresford Booth PLLC | S. Scott Burkhalter
    In Washington State, assuming you are seeking a divorce, you can move (ask the Court) for temporary orders to determine who pays what bills, ongoing support, etc. Given the length of your marriage however, it is unlikely the Court will order spousal maintenance beyond the divorce. In short, spousal maintenance is determined on a need and ability basis (e.g., you have a need and he has the ability to pay).
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/26/2011
Click to View More Answers:
12 3 4 Free Legal QuestionsConnect with a local attorney