How Long Does Spousal Support Last?

By Andrew Lu on November 07, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you are thinking about divorce or are starting to go through the divorce process, you may be wondering how long spousal support is supposed to last.

If you've been out of the working world for an extended time, you may be worried as to how you will survive financially, when you don't have the support of your former spouse. In fact, some individuals will take finances into consideration when determining whether to divorce at all.

Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer for how long spousal support lasts. Each state has different rules, and every family situation is different. However, there are some general principles for determining the length of spousal support payments.

Spousal Support Is Rehabilitative

In general, spousal support (or alimony) is considered "rehabilitative." This means that it is ordered as long as necessary for the recipient spouse to receive training and become self-supporting.

Often, the divorce decree will specify a concrete time for when spousal support terminates. But if it does not, payments must continue indefinitely until the court orders otherwise, or the paying spouse petitions to stop payments.

In addition, life changes can also affect the duration of spousal support. If someone remarries or has a live-in partner, most awards will end. This is true even if the recipient spouse did not receive enough payments allowing for rehabilitation.

Spousal Support for Life

While spousal support is normally not thought of as permanent, there may be situations where a court orders support payments for life. This is often true when a spouse is elderly or has health problems, and there is no real chance for that individual to rejoin the workforce.

Spousal support can be complicated. You can check out FindLaw's free Guide to Spousal Support to learn more, and head over to our Family Law Center as well. You may also want to contact an experienced divorce attorney for a more in-depth look of your specific situation.

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