Spousal Maintenance in St. Louis
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What is alimony & when is it awarded in a divorce?
Over the course of a marriage, both spouses often become accustomed to a certain lifestyle. When a couple decides to file for divorce, however, it can be difficult for both parties to maintain a similar lifestyle—especially if one spouse was financially dependent on the other. It is for this reason that a family court judge may decide to award spousal maintenance (which is also known as alimony) in a Missouri divorce.
Contrary to popular belief, spousal support is not meant to punish one spouse; rather, it is intended to ensure that both spouses are able to maintain a standard of living that is similar to what they had during the marriage. If one spouse’s role was to take care of the home and raise their children during the marriage, for example, they may not be equipped to support themselves financially once they have filed for divorce.
How Amount & Duration of Alimony Is Decided
It is important to understand that spousal maintenance will not be awarded in every divorce. The judge will only award alimony to one spouse if it has been established that they do not have the resources to be self-supporting and/or they need time to seek training or education that would help them get a job.
If the court finds that maintenance would be appropriate, they will then look at:
- The dependent spouse’s financial resources, property and assets
- The time needed for the dependent spouse to obtain training or education
- The earning capacity of both the dependent and supporting spouse
- The standard of living that was established over the course of the marriage
- The duration of the marriage and each spouse’s conduct during this time
- The age and physical / emotional condition of the dependent spouse
In evaluating these factors, the family court judge will make a determination regarding the amount and duration of the alimony award. There is no set formula for the calculation of spousal maintenance, which means that each of the aforementioned factors will be carefully assessed by the court. Whether you are seeking or being asked to pay alimony, you should have a skilled divorce lawyer on your side.
How long will spousal maintenance be paid?
In most cases, it will be impossible for the court to determine an exact date when the dependent spouse will be able to support themselves financially. For this reason, court-ordered spousal maintenance usually doesn’t have a set end date. Alimony is typically terminated at a later date by way of motion by the paying spouse. While both spouses can agree to set a termination date for alimony payments during their divorce proceedings, this may make it difficult for either spouse to modify this arrangement at a later date.
Unless the order states otherwise, alimony will be terminated if:
- The dependent spouse remarries
- Either of the spouses passes away
Modifying Your Spousal Maintenance Order
Just because the court has ordered you or your spouse to pay spousal maintenance does not necessarily mean that this decision is set in stone. Unless the order is non-modifiable, either party would have the right to petition the family court for a modification if their circumstances have substantially changed. For example, if the receiving spouse has since found employment and is able to support themselves financially, the paying spouse could ask the court to modify or even terminate their obligation to pay spousal support.
If the spouses had previously decided on an end date, however, the order may be non-modifiable. This means that the paying spouse would need to continue paying maintenance even if circumstances have changed. It is rare for maintenance to be truly permanent—meaning than support would last until the death of the receiving spouse—but Missouri courts have made such orders in the past. Make sure your rights are protected now and in the future by seeking counsel from The Buxner Law Firm. Our St. Louis divorce lawyers are here to help.
Call our office now at (314) 863-6000 or fill out a free case evaluation form online!