Even after divorce, a dependent spouse may have a claim to spousal support (alimony), either transitional or indefinite, because of earning disparities during the marriage.
While married, most couples share alike in the family income, regardless of who earns more. Some couples agree that one spouse will interrupt his or her career for child rearing to enable the higher-earning spouse to be the ‘breadwinner,’ yet divorce disrupts such arrangements. To assist the dependent spouse in becoming self-supporting, courts can require (or parties can agree) that the higher-earning spouse pay spousal support (alimony) to the dependent spouse. The amount of spousal support depends upon the length of the marriage, respective ages and needs of the parties, available family resources and the causes leading to the breakup of the marriage. However, indefinite alimony is generally disfavored by the courts in favor of rehabilitative alimony for a period of years. And where a spouse is voluntarily unemployed or underemployed the court can impute income to adjust spousal support.