When a couple separates, spousal support (alimony) may be assigned to the higher earning party to provide financial assistance to the lesser earning party. It is intended to recognize a partner's contribution to the marriage and helps them to achieve financial independence. Spousal support may be ordered by the court based on factors such as the length of the marriage, standard of living, each person's earning potential, contribution to household or career, and physical health of the recipient.
If the court awards spousal support the higher earning party may be obligated to pay alimony for half the lifetime of the marriage. If the marriage is over 10 years it can be an indefinite schedule of payments until the receiving party remarries or passes away. Many couples decided to waive spousal support in their prenuptial agreements which allows them to limit alimony or elect for a complete separation, which means that neither party will be responsible for paying alimony following the marriage.