Spousal Support/Maintenance (Alimony)

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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.

Contact me for a private conversation to explore your specific circumstances.