Spousal support, often called “alimony,” is one of the most contentious parts of a divorce. Often, one side feels that it is unfair to continue paying the other, while the other believes they need this money to survive.
Even worse, there’s no way to predict a spousal support ruling. The court uses various metrics to determine an amount it believes is fair, and the payer must obey, even if the ruling seems unreasonable.
It’s also not always clear who will pay spousal support. In our modern age, many families have two earners, so there may be disagreements about who is responsible for the other.
In this article, we will broadly discuss the topic of spousal support, helping clear up the question of which spouse usually pays.
What is the Purpose of Spousal Support?
Ostensibly, alimony exists to keep someone financially protected after a divorce. There was a time when most women did not work, and spousal support kept them from becoming financially destitute.
Times have changed, but there is usually an economic disparity among even modern couples. Often, you see one spouse acting as the main earner, while the other has a lower-paying job.
Spousal support helps provide stability after a divorce. It gives the lower-earning spouse a safety net, so they can maintain a level of dignity. At its best, spousal support gives the receiving spouse the ability to stay financially sound until they can restructure their lives and achieve independence.
Normally, the Higher-Earning Spouse Will Pay Alimony
When you consider the facts above, the answer becomes obvious. If there is one person who makes more money, and the other is accustomed to living off that income, the higher earner may be required to pay spousal support for some period of time.
Spousal support should keep the lower-earning spouse sustained for a reasonable amount of time. Usually, that time coincides with the amount of time needed to become self-sufficient, although it can be indefinite in certain circumstances.
Gender should not matter in a spousal support ruling. Only the economic standing of each spouse, the length of the marriage, each spouse’s earning potential, and other factors should be involved. These days, there are more stay-at-home dads and men who are lower earners. They deserve the same legal protections and have a right to be treated equally under the law.
Exceptions to the Rule
It is rare for a lower-earning spouse to pay alimony, but circumstances can make it necessary.
The lower earner may also need to pay the other for property. This is not technically spousal support; it is a way of compensating the other person for losing the home, car, etc. Maryland is an equitable distribution state, and so even a spouse earning less may have to pay a monetary award if that spouse is receiving the home, car, or other property.
If you’re concerned about spousal support, reach out to our office with your questions. Whether you need to pay alimony or receive it, we can help. Our number is (410) 618-0863, and you can contact us online.