High-Income Earners and Alimony

High-Income Earners and Alimony

Determining whether one spouse is responsible for paying alimony, or spousal support, following a divorce can actually be a complex process. Courts do not simply tell the spouse earning the higher income to pay a set amount to his or her former partner. The court will look at a multitude of factors to resolve the issue of spousal support. In the guide below, we cover the following:

  • Mandatory Deductions
  • Earning Potential
  • Self-Support

Mandatory Deductions

Mandatory deductions include income taxes, social security, and healthcare costs that are subtracted from a spouse’s gross income to compute the net income. High-earners should keep in mind that when the other spouse stays at home or earns significantly less, expenses such as car loans or mortgage payments are not subtracted from the net income when determining alimony.

Earning Potential

Earning potential is also taken into account when setting alimony. For example, a doctor who is still in residency may be making a comfortable salary at the time of a divorce, but he or she will likely earn substantially more in the near future. The opposite can also be true, where one spouse decides to make a career change with a lower earning potential in the future. Courts will highly consider a couple’s pre-divorce standard of living when determining spousal support.


Self-support is another critical factor taken into consideration when setting spousal support. For example, if one spouse does not have many skills that are redeemable in the job market or is responsible for taking care of young children, the partner earning the higher income could be responsible for a higher amount of spousal support.

If the other spouse does have skills that are redeemable in the job market but chooses not to work, this is taken into consideration as well. The court will lower the amount of spousal support the higher-earning partner must pay.  This is especially true if the spouse seeking alimony or spousal support has an advanced degree, e.g. law degree, MA, MBA, PhD.

Set Up a Consultation with Conniff and Keleher

If you are going through a divorce and navigating the process of setting spousal support, set up a consultation with Conniff & Keleher. Our skilled family law attorneys will work with you to ensure the best possible outcome. Contact us today for more information.

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