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How Long Do You Have to Pay Spousal Support?


When Does Spousal Support Terminate?

In Rhode Island, alimony, also known as spousal support, is granted to help the receiving spouse become self-sufficient. There are three different types of alimony or support available in the state -- temporary, rehabilitative, or permanent. Spousal support duration varies according to the terms of the divorce decree, marital settlement agreement and factors such as remarriage. Today, we review the different types of spousal support and their durations.

Factors Impacting the Duration of Spousal Support

According to the law in Rhode Island, permanent spousal support can continue indefinitely unless one spouse dies, or the supported spouse remarries. Temporary support may be awarded during the time a divorce is pending. The duration of rehabilitative spousal support, meanwhile, may depend on many factors the court must consider. Some factors that affect the duration of rehabilitative alimony include but are not limited to the following:

  • Length of the marriage
  • Potential earning power of each spouse
  • Ability of the recipient spouse to acquire education or skills needed to re-enter the workforce
  • Financial needs of the supported spouse
  • Economic situation of the paying spouse

The court will also look at the needs and expenses of both parties, including rent, mortgage, health insurance, food, medical expenses, cable, utilities, internet, vehicle expenses, and more.

Temporary Spousal Support Duration

Temporary spousal support is typically granted to allow a financially dependent spouse time to become financially independent. This could be for a set amount of time or until the spouse graduates from school or gains employment. If one spouse dies or the supported spouse remarries, this type of alimony will be terminated. Temporary spousal support will stay in effect until the final decision by the Rhode Island Family Court Judge.

Rehabilitative Spousal Support Duration

Spousal support is a rehabilitative tool intended to provide support until the spouse can become self-sufficient. Based on need, rehabilitative spousal support terminates when the supported spouse becomes economically self-sufficient and is typically given for a finite period of time. It can also terminate if one spouse dies or the supported spouse remarries.

Permanent Spousal Support Duration

Though not common, the court may award permanent spousal support if the circumstances allow for such an award, which continues until one spouse dies or the supported spouse remarries. This could occur if one party is seriously disabled due to old age or a disability. The factors the court will take into consideration to make such a determination include but are not limited to:

  • Health
  • Age
  • Occupation
  • Source of income
  • Occupational skills
  • Employability

Ability to Pay

A judge will take the paying spouse’s ability to pay into consideration when determining the duration of rehabilitative alimony. For this purpose, the Court will consider the economic resources available to the paying spouse, the sources of income, as well as the ability of the paying spouse to earn a certain level of income.

Custody of Children

The custody and support of children may also impact the duration of rehabilitative alimony. The Court may consider whether the primary caretaker of children is unable to support himself or herself adequately because of childcare responsibilities.

What Happens if You Stop Paying Alimony?

The supported spouse can file a contempt motion if their ex-spouse stops paying alimony. If found in contempt of a court order, various sanctions can be imposed, including incarceration under some circumstances. The paying spouse may have the option of seeking a modification of alimony based on a change of circumstances if the original award was contained in a modifiable judgment of the Court.

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