When divorcing, one spouse may be entitled to maintenance--also referred to as alimony or spousal support. Maintenance is essentially an order from the court for one spouse to provide the other spouse with financial support.
The purpose of a maintenance award is to assist the dependent spouse in maintaining the standard of living he or she was accustomed to during the marriage. These payments are typically made until said former spouse has become completely self-sufficient. A judge may order maintenance when a spouse is incapable of maintaining living expenses and the other spouse is financially well-situated. In some cases, the supported spouse may be disabled or may be severely disadvantaged in terms of education, skills, and career training.
If you are contemplating a divorce, you may have to consider either paying or receiving maintenance. It's important that you retain an experienced family law attorney to represent your interests in court. Divorce attorneys at The Higher Level Legal Law Firm have extensive experience guiding clients through maintenance disputes.
Eligibility for Maintenance or Alimony in Missouri
The payment of maintenance is not enforced upon request in every divorce case. In some cases, it may be appropriate, while in others it may not be. In order to determine whether or not a dependent is eligible for alimony payments, a judge evaluates whether the spouse is capable of supporting him or herself.
Judges rely on statutory grounds to make this decision. Typically, a court grants an maintenance order to a spouse if it finds that the spouse seeking it lacks sufficient sources of income, including marital property. Alimony is also awarded in cases when the request for payments is made by the custodian of a child with a condition or circumstances that inhibit the parent's ability to maintain employment.
Determining the Amount and Duration of Maintenance
If, after the evaluation of these circumstances, a court finds it necessary to award maintenance or alimony, the court's next task is to determine the amount and duration of the payments. Missouri courts are granted wide discretion in making this decision. Similar to determining eligibility, the courts consider a number of factors relating to each spouse's financial state before finalizing a court order.
According to Missouri Revised Statute §452.335, the following are taken into account.
- The financial resources of the party seeking alimony. This includes the marital property acquired in an asset division case, ability to meet respective financial needs independently and for a child
- The amount of time necessary for a parent to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the spouse seeking alimony to gain appropriate employment
- The comparative earning capacity of each spouse
- The standard of living established within a marriage
- The financial obligations and assets (including marital property and separate property) of each spouse
- The duration of the marriage
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking alimony
- The ability of the potential supporting spouse to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking alimony
- The conduct of both spouses within the marriage, and
- Other relevant factors.
Modifying Maintenance or Alimony
Judges have two options when solidifying an order for alimony. They can either make an order modifiable or non-modifiable.
Modifiable means that the spouses are free to come back to court to request changes to the order. In order for these requests to be granted, the change experienced by either spouse must be so significant that it makes the current terms unreasonable and unfair. Perhaps, the dependent spouse starts a job that provides enough money to be self-sufficient. This change is a good reason to modify an order.
In non-modifiable orders, alimony is paid to a dependent former spouse regardless of the circumstances. The only way these payments will cease is if the dependent spouse remarries or dies. Non-modifiable orders are rarely finalized unless it is under special circumstances. For instance, the dependent spouse has a debilitating injury, so the judge deems it necessary.
Termination of Alimony
Unless an order dictates otherwise, alimony awards are automatically terminated in the event a dependent spouse remarries or dies. But it is not entirely impossible a judge may order that these payments continue in these circumstances. As with most aspects of alimony cases, these decisions will be made at the discretion of a judge. A judge's discretion is subject to very few parameters in these cases.
Missouri Family Law Attorneys
Due to the subjective nature of maintenance or alimony proceedings, predicting if alimony will be granted, how much money will be paid, and for how long is difficult. To gain some control of an outcome, you need the help of an experienced and skilled family law attorney. The legal professionals at The Higher Level Legal Law Firm have extensive insight of these complex cases. They can help you make preparations and ensure your best interests are heard and considered by the court. For more information about alimony eligibility and the applicability of this agreement in your respective case, contact The Higher Level Legal Law Firm today at (816) 331-9986.