Spousal support, also referred to as alimony, is one of many issues that must be addressed when a couple decides to divorce. The payment of spousal support may be outlined in a marital agreement, such as a prenuptial agreement. In other cases, spousal support may be court ordered. The determination as to whether spousal support will be awarded in a Massachusetts divorce depends on several factors.
Courts generally have broad discretion in awarding spousal support, but they always look to the full economic picture of the parties involved. Courts consider the health, age and financial conditions of both spouses. An important factor is the length of time the less well off spouse would need to become self-sufficient. The amount of time a couple was married is examined, as well as their standard of living. Finally, courts consider the ability of the payer to support himself or herself while continuing to support the other.
Spousal support is generally meant to limit the economic strain of a divorce on a spouse who has no income or lower income. In the majority of cases, it is considered to be rehabilitative to help the less well off spouse gain financial independence.
The failure to pay court ordered spousal support, much like child support, can have serious consequences as shown by the current situation of professional wrestler Ric Flair. An arrest warrant was recently issued due to the wrestling champion’s failure to pay spousal support. He is reportedly more than $32,000 behind on payments to his ex-wife. After his ex filed for legal separation last year, Flair was ordered to pay her $4,000 a month. The arrest warrant comes after two court orders were entered directing him to make payments. As previously discussed in our Massachusetts family law blog, arrest warrants may be issued in extreme situations where a spouse falls behind on court ordered payments.
Source: FOX Sports, “Ric Flair faces arrest warrant,” July 18, 2013