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How Does My Ex’s Income Affect My Spousal Support Award?


The phrase “You can’t get blood from a turnip” applies to spousal support. Your ex’s income directly impacts any spousal support award. Rhode Island judges have considerable discretion in determining spousal support, but bedrock factors are the person’s need and their spouse’s ability to pay.

Spousal support awards are far from guaranteed during a divorce action. Judges will demand that a genuine need is demonstrated and confirm what the other spouse can pay.

Demonstrating the Need for Spousal Support

There is no such thing as a typical marriage. In some relationships, both spouses are professionals of equal rank and status with similar incomes. There are also marriages where one spouse has an advantage in employability and income potential. In other unions, one spouse leaves the workforce entirely to devote their time to building a home and family. These characteristics are part of what a judge will evaluate when determining whether alimony is necessary.

If you need spousal support post-divorce, a skilled attorney from McIntyre Tate LLP can detail the reasons:

  • You need to return to school to complete training or a degree.
  • You were removed from the workforce to raise children or support your spouse.
  • You have a health challenge that prevents you from returning to work.
  • You are unable to work a full-time job because have primary physical custody of a disabled child who requires attention.

Depending on the specifics of your case, spousal support may be needed for a few months, a few years, or an indeterminate amount of time (this is rarely awarded).

Determining the Ex’s Ability to Pay

Once the need for support is established, the judge will evaluate the other spouse’s financial status. The court will calculate their net income after deducting necessary expenses like child support (including for children from previous relationships) as well as any alimony still being paid to a former spouse.

Other Considerations in Spousal Support Awards

The requesting spouse’s need and the ability of the other spouse to pay are important factors, but there are other considerations.

Other factors that can impact the amount or duration of alimony include the following:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age, health, and employability of both spouses
  • The standard of living established during the marriage
  • Spousal misconduct
  • Any other factors the court determines to be appropriate

If the court orders any spousal support, most income – including Social Security benefits – can be garnished to enforce the payor’s legal obligation. As of 2019, alimony is no longer tax deductible for the paying spouses. In addition, receiving spouses do not have to claim the payments as income.

Terminating Spousal Support

All alimony awards terminate if the receiving spouse remarries. The payor spouse can petition to end or modify the support order if the payee spouse becomes self-sufficient or if their ability to pay support has changed significantly. In certain situations, cohabitation can be grounds to reduce or stop alimony payments.

Alimony Is One Part of the Divorce Puzzle

Spousal support and property settlement might seem like separate issues. In fact, these two issues are often entwined. Support does not necessarily have to take the form of monthly cash payments. Assistance can also be the allocation of the marital home or other assets. Other options include the higher-earning spouse being responsible for more (or all) of the marital debt.

At McIntyre Tate LLP, we evaluate all aspects of the divorce to best fight for what is truly in our client’s best interests.

Learn more about your alimony rights in a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys. Send us a message online or call (401) 351-7700 to schedule.