Spousal support, sometimes referred to as alimony, is perhaps the murkiest area of family law. It is fraught with emotion and case law is generally inconsistent with respect to the quantum (how much support is ordered) and duration (for how long support must be paid) of spousal support.
Aside from the lack of certainty, another key distinction between child and spousal support is that spousal support is tax deductible to the payer and taxable to the recipient as income (child support has no tax consequences).
As a general rule, the longer you have been married, the longer your spousal support obligation, and, the greater the discrepancy between your respective incomes, the more onerous your spousal support obligation. Courts look at the pattern that was established in the relationship. For example – if one spouse worked outside of the home and earned a high income, while the other spouse stayed home with the children while they were small and later chose to work part-time – after the parties separate, especially after a long-term marriage, the court may be loath to force the dependant spouse to work full time immediately following separation. This may seem very frustrating to the payer who complains that while s/he is working long hours, most of his/her money ends up going to an ex who “chooses” to stay at home and engage in social activities throughout the day. Naturally, the recipient has an entirely different perspective to this situation – after all, s/he sacrificed his/her career and his/her own aspirations for the family, and now that s/he is older, s/he cannot possibly be sent out to fend for himself/herself.
Regardless of which perspective one chooses to adopt in the above dispute, it is important to keep in mind that, where family law is concerned, habits are important. If you have established a certain pattern of parenting and financial obligations throughout your marriage, you should not expect these patterns to be deviated from drastically immediately following separation.
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