Spousal support is a payment from one former spouse to the other former spouse who is seeking spousal support. In Missouri, spousal support is called maintenance. Alimony is another term that is commonly used for spousal support.
Maintenance can have a significant impact on your divorce case and your life following a divorce case, so it is critical to get a St. Louis spousal support attorney that knows how the system works.
What is Alimony?
More specifically, alimony, or maintenance, is a Court ordered monthly payment that a spouse with greater income makes to a recipient spouse with lesser income. Generally, the Court can order alimony in a divorce decree where one of the parties to a divorce will not be able to support himself or herself following a divorce. However, in order to do so the Court has to run the circumstances of your case through a two-part test.
If you reside in St. Louis, then the Judge would be following the Missouri statute for any alimony order which is RSMo. 452.335.
The Two-Part Maintenance Test
RSMo. 452.335 lays out the two-part maintenance test in Missouri. Any of the 10 family law Judges in St. Louis County or the 3 family law Judges in St. Louis City would need to follow this test when considering spousal support in a divorce case.
As a first step, the Judge must decide whether the partner asking for financial aid is able to provide for themselves through suitable employment or personal assets.
If the Judge determines the party cannot support himself or herself after running through the first test, then the Judge applies 10 other factors to the facts. The factors are:
- The financial state of the alimony seeker, including the marital assets given to them and the ability to provide for themselves, including the amount of money allocated for the child if the person is the custodian, will all be taken into account.
- The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the person seeking alimony to find appropriate employment;
- The comparable earning capacity of each spouse in the case;
- The standard of living established throughout the marriage;
- The marital property awarded to him or her and the separate property of each spouse;
- The length of the marriage;
- The age, physical health, and emotional well-being of the individual requesting support.
- The capacity of the spouse who is being asked to pay alimony to satisfy their own needs while also providing for the needs of the partner who is asking for alimony.
- The conduct of the parties throughout the marriage; and
- Any other relevant factors that are presented to the Court.
How Long Will I Have to Pay Spousal Support?
Many clients we represent on both sides of the spousal support equation would like to know how long they will potentially have to pay or for how long they will receive maintenance. This is a complicated question that really has to do with how your case is resolved.
In Missouri, if your case proceeds to trial and the Judge orders maintenance, that maintenance order is almost always going to be ordered as modifiable maintenance. If your case settles prior to trial, then the parties can agree to modifiable maintenance or non-modifiable maintenance. Alimony is not awarded as a lump sum and is generally not awarded as permanent alimony.
Modifiable vs. Non-Modifiable Maintenance
Modifiable maintenance is alimony without an end date. For example, a Judge could order a modifiable amount of alimony of $500.00 per month to be paid by Husband to Wife. This type of maintenance is particularly common in divorce cases when the parties have been married for a very long time and one party was the breadwinner while the other primarily stayed at home with the kids, etc.
Non-modifiable maintenance, which might also be called term maintenance or contractual maintenance, is spousal support awarded for a defined period of time after which it will end. For example, parties might settle a divorce case and agree that the Wife will pay Husband $750.00 per month of maintenance for a period of 3 years. This might be the amount of time it would take the receiving spouse to finish school or special vocational training.
The tricky thing about the types of maintenance is that a good St. Louis spousal support attorney will know that if the case proceeds to trial that the Judge will have to award modifiable. This provides leverage to the party seeking financial support and makes the case more challenging for the party defending the maintenance claim.
What If We Have Been Married for a Short Time?
Some clients come to us and say that they heard or read online that spousal support is not awarded in short-term marriages or that some Judges don’t order alimony for marriages under 10 years. This is some truth to this, but it is not completely accurate.
The length of a marriage is one factor to consider in the second part of the maintenance test. Some Judges do in fact have unwritten rules about not ordering maintenance for shorter marriages. However, many other Judges are open to awarding maintenance for shorter marriages if the other factors indicate they should.
What if my Spouse Cheated?
Misconduct might matter in your case and it might not. As in the length of the marriage, the conduct of the parties is just one of the factors that are considered by the Court when ordering or not ordering spousal support. When making your case, the more factors in your favor the better the outcome may be. For example, if you are the earning spouse and have a short-term marriage and can prove your spouse cheated, then you have less of a chance of paying spousal maintenance.
Next Step in your Spousal Support Case…
Our Saint Louis family law firm frequently handles divorce cases with spousal support at issue. This includes helping high-earning parties defend a maintenance case or helping a party seeking maintenance make the best case to the Court.
We can assign a St. Louis spousal support lawyer to your case who can not only present the best arguments for or against maintenance but can also work through strategies and experts that might make sense for your case. Alimony is a serious issue because of the potential long-lasting consequences. We encourage all clients to take their time and properly research the issue before making any major decisions. Consider contacting us to help with your family law matter today.