Why Do You Have to Pay Spousal Support During Divorce?

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If you’re separated and in the process of getting divorced, you may feel you shouldn’t have to pay support to your spouse. After all, once you file for divorce, your income is no longer considered marital property and you each should be responsible for your own expenses. However, there are exceptions to this under the “automatic orders rule.”

What Is the Automatic Orders Rule?

The automatic orders rule goes into effect when a divorce action is filed and requires the parties to preserve the financial status quo, which may implicitly include a spouse’s right to support while the divorce is pending if the lesser-earning spouse files for such relief. The rule applies until the parties’ disputes are resolved with a written agreement or a court order. 

How Much Spousal Support Do You Have to Pay?

Generally, the spouse who earns less is entitled to be paid spousal support in an amount consistent with the marital standard of living. The higher-earning spouse is expected to continue to earn at the same level as before filing for divorce absent circumstances that are beyond his or her control.

If the parties cannot agree on support, one side can apply to a court to get an order for temporary support.

Do You Have to Pay Spousal Support If Your Spouse Stays in the House?

Typically, courts encourage the parent who is primarily with the children on a daily basis to remain in the home with them for stability. In this case, the other parent, who is often the higher earner, typically would move out of the marital home. In that event, the higher earner would be expected to pay spousal as well as child support and possibly the expenses to maintain the home, including paying the mortgage, real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, HOA fees, necessary repairs, and the like although these expenses are usually included in the support calculations. 

To the extent the higher earner remains in the marital home with the children, he or she may still be expected to pay spousal support if an application for such relief has been filed but not likely child support unless the lesser earner lacks the financial resources to provide a relatively similar standard of living that the higher earner spouse is able to provide to the children.

Why Should You Come to an Agreement to Pay Spousal Support?

If your spouse earns less than you, particularly if there is a big discrepancy in earnings, he or she is entitled to support upon application to the court. Refusing to pay will only delay your divorce and likely cost you more money. You would also likely have to pay legal fees and court costs to defend against the action for support if the lesser-monied spouse requests such relief. In the end, the judge will award support anyway and may award an amount higher than your spouse would have been willing to accept if you negotiated.

Further, ensuring that your spouse has adequate funds to live on and cooperating on financial matters will help your divorce run more smoothly, which will save you time and money. It also allows you to move forward in your new life faster.

If you are considering divorce, contact us for a consultation to learn how we can help you achieve a positive outcome in your divorce.

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