Post-Separation Support

Post-separation support, sometimes called temporary alimony or alimony pendente lite (pen-DEN-tay LIE-tay), is money paid by one spouse to the other. It is not a division of property but a payment based on financial need.

Post-separation support can be awarded by a court or agreed to between the parties. If the parties sign a separation agreement that includes a requirement for one spouse to pay post-separation support to the other, the agreement is binding regardless of whether the legal requirements for court-ordered post-separation support are met.

To award post-separation support, a court must find that one spouse is a “dependent spouse” and the other is a “supporting spouse.” A dependent spouse is a spouse, whether husband or wife, who is actually substantially dependent upon the other spouse for his maintenance and support or is substantially in need of maintenance and support from the other spouse.

The dependent spouse is entitled to continue at the same standard of living that she enjoyed during the last few years of the marriage up until the date of separation. She is dependent upon the other spouse if she is currently unable or will in the foreseeable future be unable to maintain that standard of living on her own.

Just because one spouse qualifies as a dependent spouse does not necessarily mean the other spouse is a supporting spouse. The dependent spouse could be relying on someone other than her spouse for support during the marriage, such as a government agency, family, etc. To be a supporting spouse, he must provide at least part of the support the dependent spouse needs to maintain her standard of living.

Once the court determines that there is a dependent spouse and a supporting spouse, it considers the relative incomes and expenses of each spouse, the length of the marriage, and the presence of any marital misconduct on the part of either spouse in determining whether to award post-separation support and the amount and duration of the award. The award may specify an end date or may last until one of the following events:

  1. The dependent spouse remarries or moves in with a person she is in a relationship with (cohabitates)
  2. The court enters an absolute divorce decree and the dependent spouse has not made a claim for alimony in the case
  3. The court awards or denies alimony (Link)
  4. The alimony claim is dismissed
  5. Either the dependent spouse or supporting spouse dies

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