Common questions & answers about spousal support law

WHY IS SPOUSAL SUPPORT Calculation much more complicated THAN figuring out CHILD SUPPORT?

Unlike child support, there is no simple table for calculating spousal support. Its amount and duration can vary greatly depending not only on personal circumstances but even on the judge deciding the issue. 

How Long Will Spousal Support Last?

Spousal support is supposed to be an interim measure permitting the lower earning spouse to transition to being self-supporting. Three years is a common duration for the award of such support, although the duration varies depending on personal circumstances. 

However, for long term relationships (generally 19 years plus), spousal support may be permanent, to be reduced or varied by the payor only through a change of circumstances motion demonstrating a dramatic increase in the recipient's income or reduction in the payor's income.

How Much Spousal Support Will be Payable?

Between 20% and 25% of a payor's pre-tax income is often awarded in spousal support. However, the number can vary for very high or very low income earners. 

Recipient spouses must realize that unlike child support, spousal support will be taxed in their hands so they will wind up with fewer after tax dollars to actually spend on necessities. And the payor spouse won't really be paying the 20% to 25%, because it will be tax deductible.


Spousal support could be negotiated in a separation agreement, or claimed in a court. A court won't award support to the lower income earner if incomes are relatively similar. Any support order - negotiated or court imposed - can be registered with the Family Responsibility Office. 


The Family Responsibility Office can enforce spousal support in ways similar to child support enforcement. Court intervention by way of contempt of court motion could also be utilized, but will not so readily result in direct sanctions against a defaultor as would Family Responsibility Office action. 

Do I Need a Lawyer to Claim Spousal Support?

Spousal support is likely one of the most technical areas of family law, because there is no established entitlement. No table that spits out a number. No well established precedents that aren't consistently factually specific. Thus a lawyer here would be especially useful in advancing your case.