How Is Alimony Determined?
Spousal maintenance (also referred to as “alimony”) is a challenging area of law because there are no convenient statutory guidelines to assist in establishing spousal maintenance. The award of spousal maintenance is totally discretionary with the judge. Because it is discretionary, the decisions around spousal maintenance are often unpredictable. With the unpredictability often comes frustration. However, because spousal maintenance is discretionary, there is an opportunity for the family law attorney to be creative when presenting a spousal maintenance case before a judge.
Spousal maintenance awards can either be permanent or temporary. Permanent maintenance is usually given in long-term marriages or when a spouse is disabled. Temporary maintenance is awarded for a fixed period of time after the dissolution is final. The purpose of temporary maintenance is to allow time to become self-sufficient for the party who is awarded maintenance support. Therefore, a party receiving temporary maintenance has a duty to become self-sufficient. Spousal maintenance is modifiable unless the parties agree to divest the court of jurisdiction after the initial award. Spousal maintenance awards, whether temporary or permanent, generally conclude upon the remarriage of the party receiving spousal maintenance or the death of either party.
When deciding whether to award spousal maintenance, the court will look at several factors to determine if an award is appropriate and whether the award should be temporary or permanent. When there is a close call, there is a presumption that an award of maintenance should be permanent. The factors the court will evaluate include:
- The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance
- The time necessary for the parties seeking spousal maintenance to acquire sufficient training and education to become self-sufficient
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The duration of the marriage and, in the case of a homemaker, the amount of time they have been absent from the job market
- The loss of earnings and other employment opportunities foregone by the spouse seeking spousal maintenance
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of the party seeking spousal maintenance
- The ability of the spouse from whom spousal maintenance is sought to meet their needs while also meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance
Simply put, spousal maintenance will be awarded based on one party's need and the other party's ability to pay.
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William Casey Law Office, LLC, has extensive experience in assisting divorcing couples with spousal maintenance arrangements and court appearances.