2. Figure out who is entitled to spousal support

What is spousal support?
This question has an answer and 4 steps
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2. Figure out who is entitled to spousal support

There are 3 ways to be entitled to spousal support. More than one of them may apply to your situation:

  1. You had responsibilities during the relationship, such as taking care of your children or helping your partner build their career. Because of that you lost the chance to make your own career. This is called "compensatory spousal support".
  2. The breakdown of your relationship leaves you in need of support and your partner has enough income and assets to pay support. This is called needs-based support or "non-compensatory spousal support".
  3. You and your partner have a cohabitation agreement, marriage contract, or some other agreement that says if you separate, you will get spousal support. This is called "contractual spousal support".

The court looks at factors like:

  • how long you and your partner lived together
  • if you have children together and who has been caring for them
  • each partner's income
  • each partner's overall financial situation

If you're entitled to spousal support, the law still expects you to try to support yourself as soon as possible after separation. This is sometimes called the "duty to become self-sufficient".

Example:

When Sara and Abraham started living together, she was working as a nurse. She stayed home after their 3 children were born and hasn't worked outside the home for 15 years. This allowed Abraham to focus on his career as a teacher.

At separation, Sara has no income and assets in her own name. She needs to re-train to go back to work as a nurse. Sara is entitled to spousal support on a compensatory basis, because she gave up a career to stay home with the kids. She is also entitled to support on a needs basis. She has no way to support herself while she goes back to school, and Abraham has enough money to support her.

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Department of Justice
Reviewed: November 30, 2017

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