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Temporary spousal maintenance: the lesser-known form of alimony

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2022 | Divorce

There are big issues that need to be tackled during a divorce, such as child custody and property division. Spousal maintenance—less formally known as alimony—can also be an important question in some divorces, and temporary spousal maintenance is not well understood.

Pre- vs. post-divorce

In legal terminology, “temporary” can refer to either when spousal maintenance is ordered or for how long. Most people are familiar with support ordered once the divorce is final, which can be either temporary or permanent in duration. However, “temporary spousal maintenance” can also refer to support ordered long before then, and this is the type you may not understand at all.

Imagine a scenario where a couple decides to divorce. One spouse has been the primary breadwinner while the other spouse has remained home to care for the family, earning little to no income themselves. Once the decision is made, the breadwinning spouse moves out of the home. How will the non-earning spouse pay the mortgage or other accumulated bills? If the divorce is contested, how will they be able to afford the legal fees that will result?

This is when pre-divorce temporary spousal maintenance comes into play. A court may order this support after divorce has been filed to continue until it is final. Its purpose is to mitigate a financial imbalance between the spouses during the divorce process itself, rather than answer long-term questions about the need for maintenance.

The court will look at a host of factors to determine whether temporary spousal maintenance is warranted while the divorce is ongoing. If ordered, the goal is to support the spouse in need, rather than to reverse roles and create a detriment for the breadwinning spouse.