Spousal support, as it is now commonly called, has in the past been known as "alimony". Spousal support is not mandatory in most states. However, if the circumstances are such that a spouse will face hardships if he or she does not receive financial support after the divorce, than spousal support should be considered. The deciding factor regarding spousal support is the need to maintain the spouse at his or her customary standard of living. In other words, the law recognizes that a wife (or husband) should not be forced to live at a level below that enjoyed during the marriage.
However, other factors also need to be considered. For example, spousal support should most likely not be considered if:
1. the marriage was for a short duration (under two or three years), and
2. both spouses are employed and self-sufficient.
This does not mean that the parties cannot agree on spousal support, which the court is, more or less, bound to accept.
Spousal support can run for an unlimited period, subject to the death or remarriage of the recipient spouse, or it can be fixed to terminate on a specific date.
Child support payments take precedence over spousal support. However, there is no firm dollar figure that is used for spousal support. This amount should be decided by both parties to the action. The amount payable can be up to 40% of the paying spouse's net income after deducting child support, less 50% of the amount of the supported spouse's net income if the supported spouse is working.
Spousal support can be waived by the recipient spouse, but it should be in writing signed by both spouses. If the higher income earner is the petitioner for the divorce, it is generally not enough to simply allege in the divorce petition that the other spouse waives spousal support. The other spouse must acknowledge the waiver in writing. If the lower income earner is the petitioner for divorce, then the waiver can be included in the petition, and subsequently entered into the judgment.