Alimony in Spain is a financial payment made by one of the spouses to the other following divorce. Alimony payments to ex-spouses are far less likely to be awarded than awards in favour of children.
The basic rule is that alimony should only be awarded where one of the spouses is clearly disadvantaged economically as a result of the divorce. It would typically be awarded where one of the spouses owns a company or is a professional with a reasonably large income and the other spouse has foregone a career to raise the children.
Factors that are relevant to the award of compensation are the ages of the spouses, their health, and the professional status of the spouse requesting the award as well as their possibilities in general with regard to finding work, the duration of the marriage and the means of income of both spouses with regard to their necessities.
It would seem that key to an award of alimony is evidence that one of the spouses has foregone the possibility of a career in order to dedicate that time to looking after the children. In a Supreme Court case decided in 2011, the court found that no alimony payment was due to the ex-wife as she had been able to develop her career without interruption during almost 23 years of marriage.
The court stated that it was not proven that her lower professional qualification, which was the cause of the difference in the ex-spouse’s salary, was a direct consequence of the marriage.
Objective of Alimony Awards
Furthermore, the court said, the objective of any award is to remove this disadvantage and not ‘to guarantee maintenance for life, preserve the lifestyle to which the spouse had become accustomed or to equalise the wealth of the couple, because the award is not concerned with parity or absolute equality between the parties’.
In this particular case, the Court concluded that the right to receive an alimony payment did not arise given that it is incorrect to consider established the need for compensation due to the mere existence of a situation of economic disparity as a result of the difference in salaries.
In the hearings, the appellant emphasized that the marriage had not acted as a restraint on the career of his ex-wife who became no longer ‘dependent’ after finding employment and obtaining a qualification in Labour Relations.
In this sense, the decision of the court was that it did not consider it logical to state that the wife is ‘the one who has left the marriage more economically disadvantaged with respect to the situation beforehand’.
Calculating Alimony Awards
In terms of the amount awarded, it is difficult to be precise but the awards to date would tend to vary between 15% and 40% of the salary of the spouse with the higher income. Payment is normally made by bank transfer and is adjusted each year according to the inflation rate (IPC).
The award may be made for life or for a period of years after which payments will cease. Should the economic situation of either or both of the spouses change however, then the award may be changed by an application to the court.
Supreme Court: Factors to determine if alimony justified
According to the Supreme Court, Article 97 requires that, for alimony to be payable, the divorce or separation must produce an economic imbalance as between the spouses which then gives rise the right to a compensatory or alimony payment. To determine whether a disequilibrium has been caused, a number of factors previously discussed by the Supreme Court must be taken into account.
The purpose of Article 97, recalled the Court, was to ensure that any prejudicial impact which might arise from cohabitation should not impact solely on one of the spouses. To determine if this has happened, t is necessary to consider what has happened throughout the marriage such as dedication to the family on the part of one spouse, supporting the activities of the other spouse, the economic regimen specified in the marriage and even the spouses circumstances before they were married.
In the present case, the marriage did not prevent the wife from working and indeed she continued to do so. Nor did the marriage deprive her of career possibilities, which would suggest that she has the requisite qualifications and aptitude to lead an independent lifestyle from an economic point of view. Nor was it proved that the difference in income between the two spouses was directly caused by any sacrifice made by the wife during the marriage as a result of a greater dedication to the child and specifically as a result of her care of their child, now of legal age and financially independent with a job, nor that the increase in the husband’s income was a result of any such dedication.