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What are some key things to know about spousal support?

If you're going to be ordered to pay spousal support or to receiving it, you definitely want to make sure you know exactly how the process works. Below are a few key things to know:

-- Assets may sometimes reduce support or eliminate it entirely. For example, rather than paying for the next ten years, you may have the option to pay a lump amount up front.

-- The court will start by looking at the income levels on both sides. No matter how much you make, if there is a large difference in earnings, that can be the basis for spousal support payments.

-- The length of the marriage matters. Generally speaking, the longer you were married, the more may need to be paid. This is due in some cases to the fact that the spouse who is getting the payments may find it very hard or even impossible to get back into the workforce.

-- These payments can end. Every situation is different, but the judge is going to decide how long one spouse has to pay the other. It could be five or ten years, for example, after which the payments stop.

-- Children also matter. Spousal support is not the same as child support—both may be needed—but having children in the house changes things. A spouse who can't work because he or she has to stay home with the kids may get more in support than a spouse who can work because there are no children or they are all grown up.

These are just a few key things to think about, but they show how important it is to look into all aspects of this process in Tennessee.

Source: Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, "Understanding Spousal Support," Nancy Kurn, accessed April 08, 2016

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