The obligation of spouses to support each other does not necessarily terminate when they divorce. If the divorce will leave one spouse with very little income and the other with enough to contribute to the low-income spouse’s support, the court will usually award alimony, at least temporarily.

Historically, spousal maintenance was awarded to homemaker wives, and paid by wage-earning husbands; that is no longer always the case. Now, either spouse may be awarded alimony depending on the income of the parties. Interim/ Temporary spousal support is based on the needs of the spouse requesting, the ability of the other spouse to pay, and the standard of living during the marriage.

Spousal support is often awarded in cases in which one spouse has put his or her education or career on hold in order to raise the parties’ children while the other climbed the career ladder and achieved a higher income. In such cases, the alimony will often be temporary, providing income for a period of time to enable the recipient spouse to become self-supporting. This temporary spousal support enables the recipient spouse to further his or her education, receive job training, reestablish himself or herself in a former career or complete child rearing responsibilities, after which time he or she can be self-sufficient. 

Final/ Permanent spousal support is based on the needs of the spouse requesting support and the other spouse’s ability to pay. Final support can be awarded to the spouse who has not been at fault for the divorce. The requesting party must prove that they are not at fault. The court looks at several factors when determining final support.