Can I get alimony without a divorce?

Alimony and separation

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, "Do I have to get a divorce to get alimony or spousal support?"

There are several reasons a couple may want to postpone filing for a legal divorce. You and your spouse may want a trial separation to decide if the marriage can be reconciled, your state may require a divorce waiting period, you may have a religious objection to a divorce, or you may need to stay married to maintain benefits such as insurance or Social Security benefits.

What is spousal support?

Whether you are requesting spousal support before or after the divorce it’s important to understand what it is and what it is not.

Spousal support is money a judge orders a spouse to involuntarily pay to another spouse. In most states the amount and duration for support is limited, it is not easy to get, and it may not be much money. So if you are considering divorce first understand that eligibility requirements to qualify can be high, the amount and duration will be limited, and it will not last forever.

Legal Separation and alimony

Certain states do allow a couple to legally separate and create a binding agreement to determine how their affairs will be managed without filing for a formal divorce. States which do not allow for a legal separation include Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

Even if your state does not allow for a legal separation, however, there may still be legal actions you can take to create some type of separation agreement. For example, Texas does not recognize the legal concept of separation, but you and your spouse can still enter into a "separation agreement" or "partition and exchange agreement" prior to filing for divorce.

Spousal Support during a legal separation

If you and your spouse file for legal separation, you will need to request spousal support. State laws vary, but generally if you are eligible for spousal support, the court will award temporary spousal support during the period of separation.

Separation laws will also determine what factors the court will consider to make their decision. For instance, the court will evaluate the income of both spouses, the earning potential of each spouse, the age of each spouse, the emotional and physical health of each spouse, the length of the marriage, other benefits offered to each spouse, the standard of living each spouse is accustomed to, the education of each spouse, and the ability of the requesting spouse to find employment.

Do I Need a Lawyer for My Separation?

Most couples considering a legal separation need to talk to a divorce lawyer. Although you can separate without going to court if you and your spouse can work together to create a written separation agreement, often this agreement will become the blueprint for the final divorce degree, and it is critical to ensure your interests are protected. For example, the agreement you and your spouse have made to divide your personal property may well be the manner in which that property becomes divided for the divorce.

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