A Survey of Lawyers’ Observations About the Principles Governing the Award of Spousal Support Throughout the United States

40 Pages Posted: 9 Jan 2018  

J. Thomas Oldham

University of Houston Law Center

Date Written: January 8, 2018

Abstract

At the beginning of this project, I distributed 5000 questionnaires to family lawyers around the country. I asked the lawyers to respond by estimating the spousal support award, if any, that would result for six hypothetical divorcing couples in their jurisdiction. While the response rate was not great, the responses received suggest that there are three different types of spousal support systems in the U. S. today. In some states, spousal support is rarely awarded, and then only to prevent severe hardship. In others, spousal support is frequently awarded when the spouses’ incomes are substantially different at divorce. In most states, however, it appears that there is no clear spousal support policy, and the award, if any, in any given case is the result of which judge is assigned to hear the matter. In these states, spousal support determinations appear to be arbitrary. I have included as an appendix to my article a summary of the responses.

Some states have responded to this lack of clarity regarding spousal support standards by adopting guidelines. These guidelines attempt to provide more uniformity in terms of award amounts and award duration. To date, they have not attempted to provide guidance regarding when a spousal support award is warranted. In this article, I discuss how spousal support standards could be clarified in those states where there appears to be no clearly accepted policy.

Keywords: Divorce, alimony, spousal support, maintenance

Suggested Citation

Oldham, J. Thomas, A Survey of Lawyers’ Observations About the Principles Governing the Award of Spousal Support Throughout the United States (January 8, 2018). 51 Family Law Quarterly 1 (2017); U of Houston Law Center No. 2018-A-1. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3098495

J. Thomas Oldham (Contact Author)

University of Houston Law Center ( email )

4604 Calhoun Road
Houston, TX 77204-6060
United States

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