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Family Law
Spousal Support & Divorce Law: Displaced Homemakers Rights
Browse: 3144       Date:09-18-2012     

In most states, spousal support (alimony) can be sought by the party to divorce who was dependent on her spouse's income during the course of the marriage. Displaced homemakers may have a better chance at receiving an award of spousal support. However, given the prevalence of two-income families, the trend of the court is to eschew spousal support in most instances, or to only make it available for rehabilitative or reimbursement purposes. 
 
Types of Spousal Support
Spousal support, sometimes known as alimony, is rarely permanent in nature. A court may award permanent alimony if a marriage was of an extremely long duration and the recipient is elderly or suffers from a chronic illness or disability. Permanent spousal support can be awarded if a displaced homemaker was never able to achieve a standard of living without the support of her husband, such as in the case of a housewife who eschewed a career to take care of the home and children. Absent these factors, awards for spousal support are typically rehabilitative in nature, enduring for two or three years at most, to allow the displaced homemaker to acquire the job skills to reenter the workforce. Another type of award is reimbursement alimony, which is given to a spouse who supported the household while his wife went to school in preparation for a professional career.
 
Spousal Support Factors
It is important to note that the factors a court considers when awarding spousal support to displaced homemakers depend on the state's laws. Typical considerations one might see in most state statutes are the duration of the marriage, the age and health of both spouses, the respective education and job skills of the spouses and the ability of a spouse to pay spousal support. Some states have what is known as a "standard of living" factor, which requires the court to ensure that a displaced homemaker maintains the same lifestyle to which she has been accustomed during the marriage.
 
Some states, but not all, allow courts to consider if actions of a displaced homemaker's ex-husband, such as adultery or willful abandonment, caused the demise of the marriage. Most states require courts to consider what assets a displaced homemaker received in a community property settlement and will use this to offset the amount of spousal support sought--or the necessity of spousal support altogether.

 
Duration of Marriage
T
he duration of the marriage is a key consideration when it comes to awarding spousal support. The "ten-year rule" is a term frequently bandied when assessing a displaced homemaker's chances of receiving some type of spousal support award. However, again, this varies by state. Some state laws specifically permit alimony to be awarded when a marriage lasted 10 years or longer, while others, such as California, may permit spousal support to be awarded in marriages of shorter duration (usually the alimony lasts for half the term of the marriage itself). Permanent alimony may be awarded after 10 years in New Jersey, while other courts require couples to have been married for 20 years to consider permanent alimony. A displaced homemaker's rights to spousal support of any kind can depend on how long he is able to hold onto a failing marriage.
 
Displaced Homemakers & Public Policy
The importance of a state's public policy toward displaced homemakers is key to understanding the probability that a person will receive spousal support. Some states, such as Utah, expressly stipulate that spousal support will be awarded to prevent a displaced homemaker from essentially becoming a "ward of the state," reliant on public assistance. Not only that, but Utah courts apply the "quality of life" standard to ensure that a displaced homemaker does not suffer a dramatic decrease in living standards.
 
However, compare this policy to a state such as Texas, in which spousal support is rarely--if ever--awarded. In Texas, a marriage must endure for 10 years, during which time the homemaker cannot have ever worked. Even if she meets this criteria, the homemaker must prove to the court that she has actively sought employment during the divorce proceedings. Texas awards spousal support for rehabilitative purposes only for a duration of three years. This state does not apply the "quality of life" standard, but rather, awards alimony in an amount that meets the displaced homemaker's most minimum needs.
 
Displaced Homemakers Rights
Every divorcing person who has abandoned career goals to take care of the family has the option of seeking spousal support. However, as evidenced, the right to do so depends on not only state law, but the court's interpretation of those rights. According to a 2004 Census Bureau report, the median duration of both first and second marriages is around eight years, two years shy of the 10-year factor courts typically consider appropriate for a spousal support award. Also, a state's public policy has a profound effect on the ability if a displaced homemaker to receive spousal support. In many states, such support is rarely a possibility.
 

Source: eHOW