The Supreme Court in Spain, has decided that in cases of divorce, the fact that one spouse earns more than the other does not give rise to the right to receive alimony where the reason for the difference in the salaries is not a result of the lower income spouse having dedicated more time to looking after the family.
The Court so decided in an appeal to a decision made in the High Court in Asturias where a wife was granted the use of the family home as well as a monthly alimony payment to last for a period of three years. The crux of the matter was the interpretation given by the Court to Article 97 of the Civil Code.
Factors to determine if alimony justified
According to the 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.
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Marriage not prejudicial
In summary, according to the Supreme Court, the marriage was not prejudicial to the wife, who continued to work, as she had done before and throughout the marriage, with the additional benefit of having been attributed the matrimonial home. Furthermore, the circumstances of each spouse when the relationship ended were more to do with her job than the loss of her capacity to work or any sacrifice that would have been made for the benefit of the other spouse.
The Court considered that the decision of the lower Court in Asturias to award alimony to the wife did not respect the doctrine that was espoused by the Supreme Court, on the contrary, the decision actually converted alimony into a mechanism by which the wealth of each spouse would be equalised, disregarding the basic tenets of the doctrine. And it was for this reason that the Court, applying the doctrine referred to, that simple economic inequality between spouses, when not a consequence of a greater dedication to the family by one of them, does not in of itself give rise to an automatic right to receive alimony.