When two people dissolve their marriage, there are a number of divorce laws that come into play when it comes to financial issues. There are child custody support payments, debt sharing, splitting assets, as well as spousal support payments.

Most of these financial issues have a defined dollar amount or length of time that the payments must be made, but spousal support is a little bit different.

Generally, the length of time for spousal support to be paid is either for a set period of time determined by family court, until the receiving spouse gets remarried or has a child with another party that pays support for their children, or when one of the parties passes away.

Of course, questions of law are never that simple. The more accurate answer to this question really revolves around many factors; one that requires an analysis of each party’s situation during and after the marriage.

Every scenario is different, but there are a couple of key aspects to awarding spousal support that can be examined to better understand how long spousal support may be granted in any given situation.

What is the Difference Between Spousal Support and Alimony Payments?

Spousal support, also referred to as Alimony, may be ordered in divorce proceedings in the state of Arkansas when it is plead for by a party in the matter.

Spousal support is a different and separate issue from child support payments, as even a party without minor children can receive spousal support.

For one to receive spousal support, it must be specifically asked for by the party and good cause shown for why it should be awarded. Typically, there are three different types of spousal support: Temporary, Rehabilitative, and Permanent.

What is Temporary Spousal Support?

Temporary support and Rehabilitative alimony is awarded for a brief time to allow the lesser-earning spouse time to get on their feet during or after the divorce.

How do I Receive Permanent Spousal Support?

Permanent Spousal Support is very rare and only happens in a small number of cases, usually when a spouse lacks the ability to care for themselves due to financial hardship or for health or medical reasons.

How are Spousal Support Payments Determined?

There is not a chart or formula that is used by the Courts for calculating how much spousal support the other spouse should receive.  In fact, spousal support is generally determined on a case-by-case basis with the court balancing one spouse’s need to receive alimony vs. the other spouse’s ability to pay alimony.

During this balancing act by the court, the judge considers a lot of different factors, which can include: the length of the marriage, the standard of living each spouse has grown accustomed to, each spouse’s income and financial situation post-divorce, and each spouse’s ability to earn.

Basically, a judge has a huge amount of freedom when it comes to determining spousal support, whether to order alimony payments, how long to award the support for, and how much will be ordered to pay.

Although the judge awards the support, spousal support may end based on the support recipient’s changed circumstances following the divorce.

What Factors Determine When Support Ends?

Spousal support ends on the date set out by court order or when one of a few things happens: The remarriage of the receiving dependent spouse can end an obligation for spousal support.

An award of spousal support will terminate upon the death of the recipient spouse.

It also ends when the receiving dependent spouse establishes a relationship that is considered equal to marriage.

This is usually established by moving in or living with a romantic partner, having a child with someone else in which they receive support or by having a child with someone in which they are ordered to pay support.

Any of these events could be enough to terminate an obligation to pay spousal support.

For example, one of my earlier divorce cases involved a rather humorous spousal support issue. My client, let’s call him Dan, was served with divorce papers by his former spouse who was much younger, and a stay-at-home wife of 15 years.

We will call her Tammy. Dan had worked hard and amassed enough acreage of good farm ground to live very comfortably.

During the divorce, Tammy requests financial support on the grounds that she had grown accustomed to her $8,000 a month allowance and that she required support due to some medical issues she suffered from, mainly fibromyalgia and nerve pain.

Tammy’s attorney argued that the medical conditions prevented her from seeking gainful employment as the pain was so unbearable.   Of course, the judge grants her spousal support until such a time that her health improves to a point where she can find gainful employment.

Understandably, Dan was pretty upset about the support the court awarded and asked me the same question that was asked at the beginning of this blog: “how long do I have to pay spousal support.”

My only answer at the time was, “when she gets better.”  A few months passed, and Dan came in my office with the most peculiar video on his phone.

The video was of Tammy playing a vigorous match of doubles tennis at a tournament at his local country club. Apparently, Tammy had taken quite the interest in tennis in the few months that they had been divorced.

Fast forward a few months and we filed a motion to terminate spousal support, which was quickly granted, and Tammy was also quickly looking for employment.

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help

Like most legal issues there are many different factors and circumstances that can affect how much and how long spousal support is awarded for.

The age-old adage of, “It Depends” rings true in some regards to spousal support issues, but that’s what we are here for.

If you have an issue regarding spousal support, please contact us to learn how we can help you.

Whether it is an issue with asking for support and beginning divorce proceedings or wanting to terminate the obligation to pay support to an ex-spouse, and anything in-between, our team can handle it.