Often times, spouses who are required to pay maintenance wonder if this order can be changed.
Alimony or spousal maintenance is an important and complex component of a divorce case. The judge, depending on the circumstances of the case, will initially decide whether spousal maintenance needs to be included in the dissolution of marriage order, and if included, both parties are bound by the court decision. Often times, spouses who are required to pay maintenance wonder if this order can be changed. In this article, we will help answer this question.
Types of Maintenance Orders
Missouri courts recognize two main types of maintenance orders:
- Term Maintenance – Term maintenance is a maintenance order assigned to a party for a specific number of years or months. It can never be altered or modified; neither within the set term nor on the conclusion of the set term, irrespective of changes in either party’s circumstances.
- Modifiable Maintenance – As the term suggests, modifiable maintenance is an order that can be modified. If the court assigns modifiable maintenance, either party can, at a later date request an increase or decrease in the maintenance assigned. While most divorce lawyers advise their clients to wait for a minimum of one year post the dissolution judgment before approaching the courts for a revision, the court could consider an earlier modification depending on the situation.
When Can a Maintenance Order Be Modified?
First, it is essential for all parties seeking a legal modification of maintenance orders to note that:
- If the original dissolution of a marriage does not include maintenance order, neither of the parties can ever approach the court for inclusion of a maintenance award from the other party at a later date.
- Moreover, according to the Missouri Revised Statute 452.370, the maintenance order gets automatically terminated upon the death of either of the parties or if the receiving party remarries. However, in cases of modifiable maintenance, the maintenance award can be altered or modified in cases where the court finds substantial and continuing change of circumstances.
A substantial and continuing change of circumstances could refer to any of the following circumstances:
- Significant increase or decrease in either the needs or earnings of either party.
- Either party receiving public assistance or benefits.
- A significant change in the cost of living
- Any medical expenses incurred for a child that hasn’t been addressed in the original judgment.
- Financial requirement as compared to income
- The ability of a spouse to pay maintenance
- Change in health of either party
There are many other factors that a court judge can consider for modification of maintenance. It is important to note that while either party put forth a request to alter the maintenance order, it is the sole responsibility of the requesting party to prove the need for modification and that the amount increase or decrease requested is correct as per changed circumstances.
In such cases, the court judge will have a substantial discretion power to ascertain the need for a modification in the maintenance order. The Judge will make a decision based on changed factors like:
- The paying party’s ability to meet his /her own reasonable living expenses
- The employment status of each party
- Income generated by each party
- If either party is cohabiting with another person and if that person should be assisting with the party’s expenses and needs.
Call a St. Louis Divorce Attorney
Hundreds of questions come to mind as the stark reality of divorce settles in. As a firm, our goal is to help you find the answers to those questions and to begin the next phase of your life with as much ease as possible. We are dedicated to providing our clients and their families with kind, personalized, and professional legal representation throughout the entire divorce process.
Please call us today to discuss your case at (314) 801-8488 or fill out our online contact form.