Difference Between Temporary and Permanent Spousal Support

The difference between temporary and permanent spousal support is straightforward, but the implications for those who pay or receive spousal support are considerable and far-reaching.

Though there are different types of alimony, which are ordered or agreed upon during divorce processes, it is largely determined by the time at which it is ordered.

However, there are two basic types of spousal support, and the two types serve quite distinct reasons. “Temporary spousal support” is the first type of spousal support. Then there is the permanent spousal support. This article will take a look at the differences between permanent and temporary alimony.

What is Temporary Spousal Support?

Temporary spousal support or alimony is an order issued by a judge for spousal support that should be paid during a divorce proceeding, annulment case, or legal separation after one spouse has filed a request with the court. In some states, a temporary spousal support calculator is often used as a guideline by the court to decide what amount – if any – is suitable for a temporary spousal support order.

After a motion document called a “Request for Order” is filed by the requesting spouse with the family court, a hearing is scheduled. Each party must file an Income and Expense Declaration to establish their respective financial condition for these financial motions.

Temporary spousal support is typically ordered to keep the parties as closely as possible to what they had during the marriage. Temporary spouse support is also known as “pendente lite” spousal support, which is a Latin word meaning an order imposed while a case is pending.

Can Temporary Spousal Support be Modified?

Yes, in a nutshell. Temporary orders entered as part of a ruling are usually only changeable if a change in circumstances is shown. It’s a decision made during the course of a case based on the payer’s financial capabilities and the recipient’s financial need.

While the court might examine a variety of additional reasons when determining a temporary alimony order, these are the most important ones. Typically, those modifications must be significant.

When a temporary order is issued and one spouse seeks to alter it, they do not have to establish that the circumstances have changed enough to support a change. In practice, however, a party would not make a move to amend a temporary order unless there had been a significant change in circumstances.

However, unless the necessity is unavoidable, this is not recommended. The motion requesting to modify the same facts that have already been ruled on may irritate the family court judge.

How Long is Temporary Spousal Support?

how long is temporary spousal support

The duration of the alimony may be written in the order

Temporary spouse support will expire when the court revises the order, either by issuing a new order or by ordering permanent spousal support. Permanent spousal support may or may not have an expiration date.

The duration of temporary spousal support can also be written in the court order that mandated it.

How is Temporary Spousal Support Calculated?

Most states let courts calculate temporary spousal support using a “guideline” temporary spousal support calculator that most family law attorneys use. The court can use the guideline calculator if they really want to (and every judge and commissioner would), but they are not obligated to do so.

They must take into account the needs of the supported spouse as well as the supporting party spouse’s financial capacity. The court judge is simply required to evaluate those two considerations. Some calculators are available online, but we would not recommend relying on them.

The criteria entered into the calculator are critically essential and have been the subject of numerous legal disputes. If the supported spouse has no income, temporary alimony will often be between 30-35 percent of the supporting spouse’s gross income, according to the calculation. Therefore, significant care must be taken to ensure that the court determines temporary support using the correct statistics.

Formula for Calculating Temporary Spousal Support

Most judges order temporary spousal support based on the couple’s financial requirements and ability to pay.

In the quest to determine the difference between temporary and permanent alimony, the sum is determined by the court based on the following factors:

Needs of the spouse with a small income.
Ability to pay by the spouse with a higher income.
They’ll consider how much one partner needs to cover their expenses and if the other spouse earns enough to cover it.

Example: Need and Ability Temporary Spousal Support

Needs: One spouse earns $6,600 per month in net income, but their monthly expenses are $7,000. To make ends meet, they’ll need $400.

Ability to pay: The other spouse earns $7,200 per month in net income, but their monthly expenses are $5,100. That spouse has the financial means to pay spousal support.

In this case, the judge may order the spouse who can afford to pay support to pay $400 per month in temporary support to the spouse who needs it the most.

What is Permanent Spousal Support?

Permanent spousal support may be awarded after a long marriage (usually more than 10 years) is terminated, if the judge determines that the reliant spouse is unlikely to return to work and will require support eternally. Some states do not permit long-term support.

After a judge has decreed the divorce of a marriage, permanent spousal maintenance is granted. When a divorce is finalized, permanent alimony is calculated and awarded.

While interim spousal support determinations are typically confined to one party’s need and the other party’s ability to pay, a judge may examine the following considerations in establishing the amount – if any – that may be required in permanent spousal support:

How Long does Permanent Spousal Support Last?

Permanent alimony is often limited to half the length of the marriage for short-term marriages (under 10 years). In this instance, “marriage” means the time between the date of marriage and the date of divorce. Therefore, if you and your spouse were married for ten years, you can expect to pay or get alimony for five years.

There is no hard-and-fast rule for determining how long alimony should last in marriages that last longer than ten years. Judges will take into account a variety of variables in order to put the recipient spouse in a position as similar to the marital level of life as practicable until that spouse is able to support themself.

Learn more about alimony and length of marriage here.

Can Permanent Spousal Support be Modified?

How to to stop or reduce the duration of alimony

There are ways you can use to stop or reduce the duration of spousal support

In most cases, the answer is yes. If the court that initially made the ruling reserved jurisdiction over that matter, permanent spousal support orders may be modified. This is a major difference between temporary and permanent alimony.

The degree of the court’s jurisdiction to modify spousal support after the order is entered is usually specified in divorce judgments integrating marital settlement agreements.

For example, an agreement could state that jurisdiction is only reserved for four years. Because no expiration date is specified, some agreements specify that the court will retain jurisdiction perpetually.

When a divorce judgment states that a permanent spousal support order is “non-modifiable,” the decree cannot be revised, even if the circumstances have changed.

How is Permanent Spousal Support Calculated?

The guideline for calculating permanent spousal support differs from state to state. While this is so, there are criteria that judges use in doing the calculation. These include:

  • The duration of the marriage or domestic partnership; Each person’s demands as determined by the agreed level of living;
  • Both spouses’ age and health;
  • Both spouses’ debts and assets;
  • Each spouse’s contribution to the other’s educational or job advancement;
  • Whether one spouse worked part-time to raise children or would have to do so after divorce; and
  • Tax ramifications of the alimony, etc

Differences Between Temporary and Permanent Spousal Support

There are numerous differences between temporary and permanent alimony. The following are a few of them:

  1. The judge is permitted to use a computer to calculate temporary alimony, but not to utilize the calculator to calculate permanent alimony.
  2. During the course of a case, temporary alimony is ordered, and permanent alimony is ordered at the conclusion of the case.
  3. Permanent alimony is part of a “judgment” that occurs at trial or upon the parties’ consent. Temporary spousal support is imposed after a party submits a request (i.e. RFO) for temporary support.
  4. Temporary spousal support will expire when the court revises the order, either by issuing a new order or by ordering permanent spousal support. Permanent spousal support may or may not have an expiration date.
  5. During an annulment case, temporary spousal support can be imposed, but permanent spousal support cannot be ordered.|
  6. The only considerations the court must examine when granting temporary spousal support are the recipient spouse’s need and the other party’s capacity to pay whereas the court must assess around a dozen factors when ordering permanent alimony.

Deborah Kelly

Deborah Kelly

As a proud single mom who has seen it all, I encourage others by sharing my experiences & curating content on divorce, adoption, child & spousal support. My passion also includes spending quality time with my kids and giving back to my community.

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