Spousal support, a.k.a. alimony is defined by divorce.com as, "Money that is traditionally paid to the lower income spouse to help out with their cost of living, also referred to as spousal support, but is not to be confused with child support."

Your Questions about Spousal Support-Answered...With the rise of "celebrity" divorces and media coverage there are many misconceptions about spousal support. Many of us believe the cheating husband who makes six figures will most certainly have to pay spousal support to his ex.

The reality is many of the cases you see, and associate with are those that are drug through court with thousands of dollars being paid to the respective parties attorneys. Most of us who file for divorce, file a "no fault divorce" involving little attorney input.

While spousal support is sometimes viewed as punishment for the spouse paying support, it is important to remember it is to help the other maintain their standard of living.

Divorce can often result in financial ruin for one or both spouses.

The proper payment of spousal support helps the receiving spouse pay household bills, credit card debt and provides for daily needs such as food. As with any type of income or expense spousal support should be added to your monthly budget.

If you are going through a divorce you may have many questions about spousal support; how it works, who pays etc.

To help you understand the basics here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions.

Q: What is the purpose of spousal support?

A:  The purpose of spousal support is to help the spouse receiving the support maintain their current lifestyle or get back on their feet both during divorce and after the divorce is final.

Q:  How much will I receive/have to pay?

A:  A judge typically decides on the amount and rules may vary from state to state. It is important to understand many factors are used to decide upon the amount such as; ability to earn a living, age, health, length of the marriage and conduct.

Q: Does everyone receive spousal support as a result of divorce?

A: Actually the majority of divorces do not result in spousal support agreements. Statistics show only ten to fifteen percent of US divorces result in spousal support orders. These orders are typically granted to individuals with significant assets and are almost always a result of a litigated divorce.

Q:  Is the husband the only one who pays spousal support?

A:  In the US all men and women are treated equally, so it may be just as necessary for the husband to receive spousal support as it may be for the wife. Determining who will pay spousal support is accomplished by using a formula that takes into account how much each spouse makes in annual salary and what, if any, assets either party has to help them maintain their lifestyle while the divorce is in process and after it is final. Remember the goal of spousal support is to help the receiver of support maintain their lifestyle until they can get back on their feet.

Q: What is the difference between spousal support and child support?

A:  Most easily explained: child support is for the child, spousal support is for the spouse. Child support is most always awarded first as spousal support is a lesser priority in the eyes of the court. 

Q: It is my spouse's fault we are getting divorced; they have to pay right?

A:  Once upon a time the "cheating" spouse had to pay spousal support, period. Now with most states utilizing "No Fault divorces" this is no longer customary.

Q:  Do I Have to Pay Taxes on Spousal Support?

A:  If you are receiving spousal support, it is considered income and you must pay taxes on it. If you are paying spousal support, you can take what you have paid as a deduction. You should consult a tax professional to ensure both of the above are filed correctly.

Knowing your rights when it comes to spousal support can be the first step to getting a handle on your finances during or after a divorce. I suggest consulting your divorce attorney to see where you stand, no matter which side you are on.

Have you paid or received spousal support? Please share your experiences with us in the comments!

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Suzanne Cramer

Suzanne is a certified credit counselor working in our Ask the Expert forums as a coach and a Social Media Specialist for CareOne. Suzanne writes for our Divorce, Debt and Finances and A Straight Talk on Debt blogs.  Follow Suzanne on Twitter where she shares the latest debt industry news and tips to keep your finances in check with her ADivorcedMom and AskCareOne accounts.

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