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What is Spousal Support?
Spousal support, referred to as “alimony” or “maintenance” in many states, is the regular, periodic, or temporary payment of a portion of income from one spouse to another. It is agreed upon in divorce proceedings when the couple dissolves the marriage and is usually awarded to balance the effects of the divorce on one spouse.
The court has sole discretion in Arkansas to award or not award spousal support. It is not an automatic consideration in each divorce, and the court can order what it finds most appropriate given the circumstances of the marriage and the lives of the spouses after divorce. Whether you are seeking or contesting spousal support, an experienced attorney can help you arrive at the result that protects you and your future.
How is Spousal Support Calculated in Arkansas?
In Arkansas, the court, at its discretion, will calculate an amount of spousal support it deems appropriate. Unlike in situations of child support, Arkansas does not have spousal support guidelines. It also does not have a set formula for calculating spousal support. Instead, the court will arrive at a figure by considering numerous factors about the marriage and the spouses, including:
- The duration of the marriage
- The lifestyle or standard of living established during the marriage
- The financial situations of both spouses, including income, assets, and debts
- The earning potential of both spouses
There is some precedent in Arkansas to suggest that courts will also weigh whether adultery was involved as a basis for divorce. The courts have not decided that adultery by the spouse who would receive spousal support completely bars spousal support, but the courts have also not said adultery is irrelevant. If the fact of adultery has a meaningful effect on one spouse’s need for spousal support or the other spouse’s ability to pay it, the adultery will certainly be considered in determining the award.
It is difficult to tell whether your divorce will involve spousal support and how much, but a skilled attorney can explain the possibilities to you and prepare a case that gives you the best chances of achieving the results you need.
Types of Spousal Support in Arkansas
Spousal support can be awarded in varying durations, based on the needs and capabilities of the spouses. The types of spousal support available in Arkansas are:
- Rehabilitative – Spousal support that is meant to enable one spouse to receive education, training, skills, or experience to become or recapture the ability to become self-supportive.
- Temporary – Spousal support awarded for a fixed duration to temporarily offset the effects of the divorce for one spouse.
- Permanent – Spousal support awarded in perpetuity to one spouse.
Most awards of spousal support are rehabilitative or temporary. In a way, both of these are rehabilitative, as they help one spouse achieve or maintain some financial security following the divorce. Courts have a large amount of discretion in making these decisions and can even award one spouse support as a form of reimbursement for caring for the other spouse or supporting the other spouse while he or she pursued higher education or training.
Permanent spousal support is rarely awarded and generally reserved for long-term marriages wherein one spouse is now advanced in age, ill, or never developed the skills to be self-supportive. It is meant to assist a spouse who has little likelihood of gaining employment.
Of course, the spouses can also agree on the type and duration of any spousal support. A family law attorney can provide further information about Arkansas spousal support and help you understand what options might be available in your case.
Modification or Termination of Arkansas Spousal Support
Should circumstances change, a spousal support agreement can be modified. The former spouses can come to a new agreement between themselves, or they can move the court for a new order. If they return to the court, the moving spouse will need to demonstrate to the court that the previous award is no longer appropriate. Significant changes in income can be justifications for seeking a modification to the spousal support order.
A spousal support agreement will terminate in the event the receiving spouse remarries, absent an agreement by the spouses to the contrary. One spouse can also move to terminate the spousal support, or the spouses can agree together to terminate support.
In addition, the receiving spouse has options in the event the paying spouse stops paying ordered spousal support, underpays support, or does not timely pay support. The court can use several methods to enforce the previous order.
If you need to modify, terminate, or enforce your order for spousal support, contact an experienced family law attorney today. Attorney Mark Rees has more than 20 years’ experience trying family law cases, and he will pursue the result you deserve with the skills you need on your side. Contact the Rees Law Firm today to discuss your spousal support situation and work toward a solution that ensures your long-term wellbeing.
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Mark Rees is a terrific lawyer and went above and beyond for me each time I have used his services. He treated me as if I were family and was always straight forward with us. I would recommend him to anyone.Tonda Johnston Baxter