Courts recognize that the finances of spouses are interconnected during marriage, making it a challenge to isolate their contributions to the relationship. Spousal maintenance is a way of leveling the playing field between a higher- and lower-earning spouse so that the latter does not suffer financial hardship. There are three different types of spousal support that focus on this basic principle:
1. Rehabilitative: This form of spousal maintenance is intended to help the lower-earning spouse obtain job skills, education, and training, so he or she can earn a living. It is temporary because the objective is that the recipient will become self-sufficient. Rehabilitative support is common when one spouse gave up career opportunities to contribute to the household and/or raise the family.
2. Reimbursement: If one party paid for the other’s education or training, he or she may be entitled to recoup these amounts through reimbursement spousal maintenance. The point behind this type of support is that both spouses benefit from the financial implications during the marriage; however, only one will take away the knowledge and credentials upon divorce. A court may find that reimbursement is appropriate under such circumstances.
3. Permanent Spousal Maintenance: A judge will rarely grant permanent spousal maintenance, as the laws assume a lower-earning spouse will eventually get back on their feet through rehabilitative or reimbursement support. The exception is where that person has limited employment opportunities due to age or disability. Even when a court does order permanent spousal maintenance, there will typically be an end date.