Creating a Detailed Spousal Support Agreement

When you include permanent support in your agreement, you want to include the amount, when it starts, what days in the month it will be paid, and if agreed, when it will end. You can also add more to the agreement, such as when a spouse needs to start looking for a job, or when either person can retire early. The more comprehensive your agreement, the more opportunities you have to make a fair agreement and have fewer disagreements in the future. In our sample MSA, we have provided an example.

You might also include step-downs in your divorce agreement. An agreed timeframe of when spousal support will be reduced to the new amount. You might decide that these step-downs should be included because one of the 4320 factors is the duty of the supported spouse to become self-supporting. In a short-term marriage, the supported party is given half the length of the marriage to be self-supporting. There’s no rule of thumb for long-term marriages. As for the judge, I believe she would take note of whether it’s been half the time of the marriage, and would weigh the spouse’s efforts to be self-supporting against other issues like the spouse’s health and age, the age of the children at home, and if there are children with special needs.

If you are the supporting spouse, it’s a good idea to discuss with your spouse what he or she will do to become self-supporting. Use this conversation as a time to set realistic expectations between you. You might agree that support will be higher while the spouse goes back to school, or gets job training, and after that time, support automatically steps down to account for the spouse’s ability to work. If you do agree on a course of action, include it in your divorce

agreement. And be fully aware of what you are agreeing to; that it’s right for you in the context of your case.

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