How Fault Can Determine Spousal Support Amounts

Spousal support, better known as alimony, is financial support from a richer spouse to a poorer spouse so the poorer spouse is able to get back on his or her feet after a divorce. If that poorer spouse was responsible for sort of marital misconduct, the richer spouse may not want to pay spousal support.

Does fault matter in the calculation of spousal support? It depends on many factors.

Fault vs. No Fault Divorce

Most states have two types of divorce: fault and no-fault. A fault divorce is one where one spouse is asserting that the other one has engaged in some form of marital misconduct such as having an affair, domestic abuse or some other conduct that caused the marriage to be beyond repair. A no-fault divorce is where neither spouse is blaming the other for the end of the marriage; the couple has simply made a mutual decision to get divorced.

Awards of spousal support may be influenced by the type of divorce the parties are seeking.

Factors Determining Spousal Support – Fault

In many general spousal support guidelines, marital misconduct is one factor that a judge may consider in assigning an award for spousal support. The weight of fault will depend on the state the divorce takes place in, the type of divorce being sought and even the whims of the judge presiding over the divorce.

As a general point, judges are not as impressed with adultery and some forms of wrongdoing as an angry spouse might hope. Family court judges have heard and seen many things in their work. Typically, a wronged spouse will not be able to evoke the same level of pain, shock and anger as (s)he may be feeling.

That being said, if the conduct involved was egregious such as severe domestic abuse or a situation so extreme and unusual that the average person would be horrified at the wrongdoing spouse's behavior, the judge may put greater weight on the  marital conduct than (s)he might otherwise.  This is especially bad for the wrongdoer seeking spousal support.

Getting Legal Counsel

It is important to get the advice and guidance of a licensed attorney in your state before pursuing a divorce. The attorney will be able to determine what type of divorce is best, whether fault will play a role in your divorce action and help you present your best arguments to the judge.

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