There are many factors that can affect the duration of spousal maintenance.
The term ‘spousal maintenance’ refers to alimony paid to a spouse. Missouri law has set definitive rules about spousal maintenance, its duration, and the amount. Moreover, the Missouri courts have a large amount of discretion when it comes to deciding spousal maintenance. Alimony in Missouri, like most other places, is dependent on the circumstances of the case and the judge’s decision.
Spousal support according to the terms of the decree
Spousal support in Missouri is not always specified in the divorce decree and is usually decided after the judge decides on other divorce components such as property and asset division. This is done to make it easier for the judge to understand the paying capacity of an individual after the divorce. For example, if a party in the divorce receives rental property that generates income, he/she would likely require less spousal maintenance.
Apart from the division of property and assets, the court also takes into consideration the earning capacity of the spouses and the duration of the marriage. For example, a spouse with a career is more likely to get less maintenance than one who has been without a job for say, 10 years, perhaps even looking after children. However, a young spouse with a career option who looks after children could receive spousal maintenance as well.
Duration of spousal maintenance
Our St. Louis divorce lawyer explains that in Missouri, the courts usually do not grant ‘permanent alimony’. In most cases, the court either decides on a set date of termination that is included in the divorce decree or does not include a date and the paying spouse is expected to comply until either the paying spouse’s or the receiving spouse’s circumstances change. Missouri courts decide spousal maintenance based on the reasonable time that support receiving spouse will need to either acquire necessary job skills or education to support themselves.
Factors affecting spousal maintenance
There are some other factors that can affect the duration of spousal maintenance. These factors are also considered by the court and are at the judge’s discretion, who will consider the circumstances of the case. These factors are –
- Remarriage of the receiving spouse. A paying spouse need not support a remarried spouse unless the decree specifically provides for it (which is rare).
- Death of the receiving spouse.
- If the paying spouse dies, the estate of the paying spouse may or may not have to continue spousal support depending on the circumstances of the receiving spouse.
Most decrees including spousal support include a termination date as well as a provision that a receiving spouse has to actively seek employment and generate an ability to support them while receiving spousal support. If the receiving spouse does not make any effort to seek employment, the paying spouse can petition to the court, notify the judge and seek termination of spousal support.
Most decrees are modifiable, with the exception of those that specifically state so. Similarly, all orders without a termination date are also modifiable. Modifications can be made if the circumstances of the paying or the receiving spouse change. One has to file a motion with the court stating the reason for modification and provide proof. Such reasons for modification should usually be permanent changes affecting the ability to pay.
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