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Can a Spouse Ask for Support if They Work?

Posted By Cairns Law Offices || 2-May-2016

If you are headed for a divorce, you have a lot on your mind. If you have a family, you are thinking about where the children will live and how you and your spouse will parent them.

If you own a home, you have to decide if you should sell it. If one of you is determined to keep the house, can that spouse realistically refinance the home in their own name? Can that spouse afford the mortgage payments by themselves?

Will one of you ask for spousal support, and if so, will the judge order it? Whether you are likely to be on the paying end or the receiving end of spousal support, this question is likely to enter you mind sooner than later.

Each couple's situation is different. You and your neighbor may both have jobs that pay $50,000 a year, you may both drive $25,000 cars, and your homes may both be worth about the same, but if you both get divorced, one of you may be ordered to pay spousal support while the other is not.

What is the difference in the spouses' income?

Often, the decision to award spousal support comes down to disparity in income. Have you been the breadwinner while your wife stayed home to raise your three children over the past 10 years? If so, it would be reasonable for your wife to ask for support until she can get on her feet, and there is a strong possibility that the court will order it.

Do you earn $25,000 a year, while your spouse brings home $80,000 a year? In that case, you can file for spousal support for one reason in particular: because your income is significantly less than your spouse's. So, yes, a spouse can ask for support, even if they have a job.

If a couple is seeking a divorce but still living together, the court will not order one of the spouses to pay spousal support unless the higher-earning spouse is refusing to provide their spouse with the basic necessities of life, such as food, shelter, and clothing.

This is rare, but it happens, especially when a bitter spouse "cuts off" the other spouse.

While the procedure varies from county to county, typically a support conference is held within a few weeks of the complaint being filed. Once the conference is held, it is possible for a support order to be made retroactive to the date that the plaintiff (spouse asking for support) filed the complaint.

During the support conference, the domestic relations officer, the two spouses, and their attorneys are present. The conference is usually closed to friends and family, unless they are asked to testify.

If you are getting a divorce and have further questions about spousal support, please contact a Pennsylvania divorce attorney at Cairns Law Offices for a free consultation.