Spousal Support & Alimony

In general, the purpose of spousal support, alimony pendente lite (alimony pending litigation) and alimony is to help a dependent spouse get back on his or her feet and continue to maintain the standard of living he or she had during the marriage. When determining a party's support or alimony pendente lite obligation, the court first looks at the net monthly incomes of both parties. In some complex cases, it is necessary to bring in experts, including forensic accountants and vocational experts, to determine the net income of one or both of the parties. After the parties' net incomes are determined, the court then utilizes a formula. Alimony, on the other hand, does not have a formula by which to calculate the amount or duration. Instead, in determining a party's alimony obligation, the court will consider a number of factors and determine whether or not alimony is necessary.

At Cognetti & Associates, our experienced and dedicated attorneys are able to understand and represent clients on both ends of the spectrum. We understand that some clients may have depended on their spouse's finances, and that it may not be easy to become financially independent during the divorce proceedings or after the divorce is granted. We also understand how difficult it may be to owe a financial obligation to your spouse or ex-spouse while simultaneously trying to get your life back on track.

What is the difference between spousal support and alimony pendente lite?

The duty to provide spousal support arises out of the marital relationship and terminates when the marriage ends. To receive spousal support, a spouse must show that he or she is innocent and injured and entitled to it meaning that a spouse may forfeit the right to spousal support by engaging in misconduct rising to the level of valid grounds for a fault divorce.

Alimony pendente lite is defined as "an order of temporary support granted to a spouse during the pendency of a divorce or annulment proceeding." If awarded, APL may continue until a final Decree in Divorce is entered, or it may only continue for a limited duration of time as agreed upon by the parties or pursuant to a court order. APL is based on the need of the dependent spouse to have equal financial resources to maintain or defend the divorce action. Unlike spousal support, the dependent spouse need not show that he or she is entitled or "innocent and injured."

Spousal support may be requested before a divorce complaint is filed, while APL may be requested only after the complaint has been filed. You cannot receive spousal support and APL at the same time.

What is alimony?

Alimony is ordered to ensure that the reasonable needs of the spouse who is unable to support himself or herself following a divorce are met. A court may award alimony, as it deems reasonable, to either party, if it finds that alimony is necessary. In determining whether alimony is necessary and in determining the nature, amount, duration and manner of payment of alimony, the court will consider various factors:

  1. The relative earnings and earning capacities of the parties;
  2. The ages and the physical, mental and emotional conditions of the parties;
  3. The sources of income of both parties, including but not limited to medical, retirement, insurance and other benefits;
  4. The expectancies and inheritances of the parties;
  5. The duration of the marriage;
  6. The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other party;
  7. The extent to which the earning power, expenses and financial obligations of a party will be affected by reason of serving as the custodian of a minor child;
  8. The standard of living of the parties established during the marriage;
  9. The relative education of the parties and the time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking alimony to find appropriate employment;
  10. The relative assets and liabilities of the parties;
  11. The property brought to the marriage by either party;
  12. The contribution of a spouse as homemaker;
  13. The relative needs of the parties;
  14. The marital misconduct of either of the parties during the marriage;
  15. The federal, state and local tax ramifications of the alimony award;
  16. Whether the party seeking alimony lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her reasonable needs; and
  17. Whether the party seeking alimony is incapable of self-support through appropriate employment.