The purpose of alimony or spousal support is to limit the economic effects of a divorce proceeding. It is granted to the unemployed or lower-wage-earning spouse as a source of continuing income.
The court is aware that there are countless, justifiable reasons for one of the spouses to be unemployed or earning lower wages. For instance, it is very common for one spouse to end or halt their career to support the family, be it at home or anywhere else outside of work. The court sees a significant importance in continuing the standard of living that a spouse may have grown accustomed to during the marriage.
Unlike child support, where there are very specific monetary guidelines, there is more leeway concerning the awarding, the duration, and the amount of alimony. Under the Uniform Marriage and Divorce Act, where most states’ spousal support statutes are based on, are a few recommendations for the court to consider when making decisions related to alimony. Things like age, physical and emotional condition, as well as financial conditions are the big factors that courts look at first. Then they decide how long the recipient would need spousal support until they became self-sufficient enough to get back into the workplace.
Next, they examine what the standard of living was during the marriage, as well as how long the marriage lasted. And finally, the ability of the PAYING spouse to support the recipient, while still being able to support themselves (imperative to note).
Unlike with child-support, where the court “has ways” of punishing you for not paying, there are not too many things a court can do if one spouse isn’t paying alimony. However, the spouse who should be receiving the payments can go to the court in a contempt proceeding to force the payment. Once there is a court order for alimony, the court can leverage punishment to a spouse who is supposed to be paying the entitled person.