Do I have to wait until the end of the divorce to get spousal support?

If you and your husband are separated, you need to prepare yourself for the fact that, eventually, he will cut you off from his money, if he hasn’t already. After you separate, the money you earn is no longer marital property—what his is his, and what’s yours is yours. Of course, that’s not a comfort at all if you’ve been a stay-at-home mom or if you’ve cut back your career to focus on the support of your family. If he’s the major breadwinner, and you still have the kids the majority of the time, you’re going to find yourself strapped for cash—fast.

Spousal support isn’t awarded in every case. When it is awarded, the judge looks at a complex web of factors, including whether you have a need and he has an ability to pay; whether the statute supports an award of spousal support based on the details of your specific situation; and how long you’ve been married. Depending on your unique circumstances, you could end up with a wide range of spousal support—from no support at all to permanent support (or, at least, permanent until one of you dies, you remarry, or you cohabitate in a relationship analogous to marriage for a period of 1 year or more). But this kind of support is something that won’t be awarded until some time after you’ve signed a separation agreement or after the judge has entered a final order regarding support. Sometimes, it even takes until entry of the final divorce decree before this type of support is paid.

…But you can’t wait that long. You’ve got to keep paying for everything the kids need and, now that he’s moved out of the marital home, he’s not helping with bills, either. Plus, you need to hire an attorney, and the Bank of Mom & Dad just isn’t unlimited.

You can also get temporary support. Sometimes, even if you won’t qualify to receive spousal support after the divorce, you can still get spousal support while your divorce is pending. This is something you should definitely discuss with your attorney. A lot of times, when we take a case where we have fault grounds, we end up filing for divorce just to get in the court system, because then we can have a pendente lite (temporary support) hearing.

If you don’t have fault-based grounds, you can file for support in the juvenile court as well, though it would probably take a little longer to get an order in place.

Regardless of what you choose, you should know that just because your husband has cut you off doesn’t mean that you can’t receive any support at all until after you’ve signed your agreement or a judge has entered a final order. You can often use the pendente lite hearing to establish a temporary spousal support award to help you make ends meet in the meanwhile.

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