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In some instances a spouse will ask for alimony, the court-ordered payment of money to your spouse after the dissolution of marriage. If you made more money (especially if you were the primary breadwinner), there is a good chance your spouse will seek alimony. The bigger the difference in earnings and the longer you were married, the larger the alimony payment will be.

For a Texas law primer on Spousal Maintenance, click here for a recent blog post.

Reducing Your Exposure to Maintenance:

If the divorce is not going to occur for some time, the spouse who earned more money should consider the following actions to reduce their exposure to alimony:

* reduce the current household expenses;
* if the parties have separated, establish a precedent of the spouse supporting their own needs with little or no financial support from the other spouse;
* reduce debt;
* help get the spouse a job or more education;
* maximize time with the children;
* investigate marital misconduct;
* don’t engage in marital misconduct;
* allow a temporary disability to improve; and
* if income is trending down, it would make sense in holding off the divorce to use a lower income in calculating maintenance.

How Is Alimony Determined?

Generally, there are designated factors that the court has to consider in determining whether or not to order a party to pay alimony.

Courts usually consider the following when determining maintenance, though, of course, these vary by state so be sure to consult with a local, licensed attorney:

* length of the marriage;
* age and health of the parties;
* division of property;
* education level of each party at the time of the marriage and at the time the action is commenced;
* earning capacity of the parties;
* feasibility that the party seeking alimony/maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage and the time needed to achieve this goal;
* tax consequences to the parties;
* pre-marital and post-marital agreements;
* contribution of one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other;
* and any other facts as the court may determine to be relevant.

Once the court determines that a party is entitled to alimony, the court then determines how much the person should receive per month and how long he or she should receive it.

When Can I Stop Paying Maintenance?

There are myriad other reasons that may terminate or reduce support, but the basic idea is that if there is no longer a need for support, then you can argue that it should be terminated. In general, support will likely stop upon the receiving party getting remarried, cohabitating with another individual in a marriage-like relationship or dies.

What Does Maintenance Pay For?

Maintenance can be ordered as either a substitute for a property division, short-term support to aid the ex-spouse in becoming self-sufficient, or lifetime support of a spouse who has limited earning ability or who is unemployable. The framework of the initial support decision is critical to whether the support obligation is subject to termination.