Just How Long Will I Pay Spousal Support?

Spousal support, or alimony, may be a part of your divorce case. An attorney familiar with divorce law in Santa Fe will be able to discuss the possibility of spousal support in your divorce, but you can learn more about this generally below.

Spousal support usually falls into one of three categories: long-term, rehabilitative and transitional. The type that applies to your case will depend on your circumstances and the length of your marriage. The Court has wide discretion in awarding spousal support, so you should always speak to an attorney to come up with a plan on how to address spousal support.

When Does Long-Term Spousal Support Apply?

There is no single set situation in which spousal support always applies. However, in general, if you were married for a long time and there is a big difference between you and your spouse’s income or any other special circumstances, you may have to pay spousal support for a long period of time after the divorce. This is also known as “long-term” spousal support. “Long-term” spousal support is a blanket term describing one of the several possibilities of an award of spousal support that will continue far into the future.

How Long Will I Pay Long-Term Spousal Support?

This type of support does not necessarily have a fixed end date and can even exceed the length of the marriage. If a couple got married in their 20s and divorced in their 50s, for example, the paying spouse may have the obligation to pay until the receiving spouse reaches retirement age or even beyond.

In most cases, a judge will not order spousal support to be paid indefinitely unless the marriage lasted a long time and there is a large disparity in earning power between spouses. However, there are circumstances that might warrant long term support where a marriage is not 20 years, such as if the spouse receiving the support has a disability that prevents them from having a job. The judge will look at a variety of factors in determining an award of support.

A judge may find spousal support is warranted if one spouse makes far less money than the other spouse. A spouse who has marketable skills or a good education but chooses not to work may have income “imputed” by the court. This means the court will estimate how much the spouse could make if they were working and factor that into the decision on support.

In New Mexico, long-term spousal support often ends when the spouse gets remarried or dies.

What About Rehabilitative or Transitional Spousal Support?

Rehabilitative support is usually paid for a set period of time, which is usually the amount of time the receiving spouse would need to complete training or education so they can support themselves. If, for example, a receiving spouse says they need two years of school to earn their degree, the court can order the support to be paid for two years while the receiving spouse gets on their feet.

Transitional support, on the other hand, is meant to give a receiving spouse a financial cushion as they re-enter the workforce. This is normally for a short period of time, such as six months to one year. This type of support may be granted to a spouse who does not have sufficient income for a period of time and is waiting on something like a home sale in order to adjust.

If you think you may have to pay–or are eligible to receive–spousal support in your divorce, contact an attorney as soon as you can. This is a court-ordered award, so once a judge grants it, you will be legally obligated to pay until you can take the matter back to court. Failure to pay spousal support can lead to legal action against you.