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Alimony: Rehabilitative Spousal Support

Alimony awards, also called “spousal support,” are usually granted at the court’s discretion upon a determination, which takes into account certain factors, that spousal maintenance is necessary. Some of the factors considered when determining alimony payments include the education of the spouses, their respective work experiences, income histories, ages, health, the length of the marriage, and the time either spouse has spent out of the work force. Alimony may be either temporary (often called “rehabilitative alimony”) or permanent. The court grants rehabilitative spousal support when one spouse has been disadvantaged in order to equalize the burden of the divorce.

Effect of Annulment

Usually, an annulment action involves issues of property distribution together with problems involving maintenance, custody, and child support. Annulment nullifies the marriage, but not the legitimacy of the children born to the marriage. Parents in an annulled marriage have a duty to support their children born before and after annulment. Children born during the annulled marriage are considered legitimate, and they have the same rights as children of divorced parents. During annulment proceedings, when a wife applies for child support and the husband insists that he is not the father of the child, the court has jurisdiction over the paternity question.

Property Division in Divorce: Equitable Distribution

As the name implies, “equitable distribution” seeks to give the divorce court some discretion to distribute property equitably in divorce. Many common-law states and some community property states use equitable distribution for dividing marital assets and debts between divorcing spouses. Many equitable distribution states also apply the scheme to divisible property, and some so-called “all property” states may apply it to all of the spouses’ property.

Defenses in Fault-based Divorce: Mental Illness

Divorce statutes in most states consider several defenses in case of fault-based divorce, such as recrimination, condonation, reconciliation, collusion, and connivance. States traditionally have allowed mental illness as a common law affirmative defense in fault-based divorce actions, particularly against charges of adultery, cruelty, and desertion. Under a typical scenario, the defendant was required to plead the defense and prove that mental illness prevented the defendant from recognizing that the offending act was wrong. In states that allow fault-based divorce and that have detailed statutory schemes governing divorce actions, the general movement has been to limit or eliminate common law divorce defenses such as mental illness.

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