Spousal Maintenance

Cindy Best

 

Spousal maintenance was formerly called alimony. There seem to be more misconceptions about spousal maintenance than almost any other area of divorce. You may have heard that you will get spousal maintenance because your spouse makes more money, but it is not that simple. Spousal maintenance can be highly discretionary, depending on the judge. In fact, it is often a mystery as to how spousal maintenance has been determined, seemingly very dependent on the court.

There is a statute to follow, but it is very factual and case-specifically dependent. That may be why it is hard to pinpoint rules and outcomes with any certainty. Spousal maintenance is most common in long-term marriages of 20 years or more, where one spouse has been a stay-at-home parent who never worked outside the home and has limited job skills and prospects, compared to the working spouse.

Specifically, the court first determines any one of the following: the spouse lacks sufficient property to provide for reasonable needs; the spouse is unable to be self-sufficient through appropriate employment (that is, ?who takes care of whom? if age or condition precludes the spouse from working); the spouse contributed to the education of the other; or the marriage was of long duration and the spouse may be too old to be employed and self-sufficient.

Once the court determines that any of these factors are met, there are 13 other factors that the court may use in order to determine how much and how long maintenance should be paid. Even though there are 13 factors, often the court and the attorneys use a ?spousal maintenance guideline? calculation. We share this calculation with you in Chapter 7. While not a set rule, these guidelines are a starting point for negotiations. If you go to court on this issue, the outcome is anyone?s guess.

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