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Alimony: Rehabilitative Spousal Support

Alimony awards, also called “spousal support,” are usually granted at the court’s discretion upon a determination, which takes into account certain factors, that spousal maintenance is necessary. Some of the factors considered when determining alimony payments include the education of the spouses, their respective work experiences, income histories, ages, health, the length of the marriage, and the time either spouse has spent out of the work force. Alimony may be either temporary (often called “rehabilitative alimony”) or permanent. The court grants rehabilitative spousal support when one spouse has been disadvantaged in order to equalize the burden of the divorce.

Rehabilitative spousal support is awarded to provide a disadvantaged spouse the opportunity to seek education, training, or experience that will enable that spouse to get back on his or her feet and obtain financial independence.

In granting rehabilitative spousal support, courts consider the following factors:

whether the spouse who would pay such alimony has obtained greater job skills or education during the marriage; and
whether the spouse who would receive such alimony provided financial support while the other spouse obtained job skills or education.

Rehabilitative spousal support is awarded for a temporary period, usually with a fixed timeline, and is meant to help a spouse “rehabilitate” himself/herself and in order to get back into the workforce. It is also given to the mother of small children so that she may stay home with them until they reach school age.

With respect to how long rehabilitative support can last, the parties can either agree to a timeline or have the court mandate the length of the support period. When rehabilitative support is ordered as part of a divorce decree, the parties sometimes request that the decree also includes a provision that the need for spousal support is subject to review later. Such a provision allows for the court to look at the facts of the case and determine if spousal support should be continued, discontinued, or the amount changed.