It's fairly common for a client to enter our office very upset and demand he or she wants the other side to pay. Generally, I imagine his or her ultimate desire to see the future former spouses' head served up on a silver platter. Of course, this is far outside the scope of any legal solution and certainly not encouraged, but it does steer the conversation to real options provided under the law. If the client is needing the future former spouse to “pay” because he or she did not work during the marriage or cannot afford the bills by himself or herself, spousal support may be an option.
In Louisiana, there are two types of spousal support (sometimes referred to as alimony). The first type of spousal support is called interim spousal support. Interim spousal support is financial support ordered to be paid while you wait for the divorce to be finalized. The second type of spousal support is final spousal support. Final spousal support is normally ordered to be paid after the divorce is finalized.
For interim spousal support, the court looks at (1) the financial need of the party requesting the interim spousal support, (2) the ability of the other party to pay, and (3) the standard of living of the parties during the marriage. However, no client should expect that with an award of interim spousal support his or her finances will continue as it did prior to the filing for divorce. No one is immune to the fiscal sacrifices and adjustments which accompany every divorce.
Final spousal support is awarded IF AND ONLY IF, (1) prior to the filing of the petition for divorce the requesting spouse was not at fault for the termination of the marriage, (2) requesting spouse is in need of financial support, and (3) the other spouse has the financial ability to pay. Final spousal support is awarded in exceptional circumstances and is awarded significantly less frequently than interim spousal support. This is partly due to there are multiple qualifiers to receive final spousal support and many clients receive some assets when the community is divided.
While the court may be able to “make him/her pay” interim spousal support and on rare occasions final spousal support, the client's financial outlook will not be the same as it was during the marriage. With the end of a marriage comes the end of obligations to one another. This means that for both, interim and final spousal support, an end date is set. The court does not make the former spouse pay forever and more often than not, orders amounts for shorter periods of time and less than the client may want. Remember, you may be able to “make them pay”, but also make sure your attorney is giving you realistic expectations so that you can properly manage your financial future.