St. Louis Divorce Lawyers

St. Louis Divorce Attorney : Is Alimony Reform Necessary in Missouri?

Our firm’s goal is to assist couples in need to navigate their way through these important, life-changing events.

Spousal Support Attorney

Spousal support, or alimony, is a tricky component of divorce. Different states in the US have different guidelines and laws for determining alimony. For example, in some states, maintenance periods can be permanent (life-long), some have a designated term that can extend for long periods, or for short, some states provide guidelines that dictate the amounts to be paid as alimony, whereas all states in the US allow modification of the non-contractual maintenance amounts after the divorce case has been settled.

History of Alimony

The concept of alimony emerged as a result of prevalent gender roles (where women were pre-dominantly homemakers, looking after children, or if working, had incomes that were insufficient to support a family). The husbands leaving a marriage were supposed to provide for their wives, ensuring support and the same standard of living while being married, until she decided to remarry or passed away. The maintenance component thus also ensured that divorced women do not become responsibilities of the state and were provided for by their ex-spouses.

However, with changing times, considering the disappearance of gendered origins of maintenance, it could well be on its way to redundancy. Women today, not only manage their homes but also are more career-oriented and have the ability to be self-sufficient. In view of these changing times, many states have started changing alimony statutes, as it seems unfair for anyone to support a former spouse who has the ability to be self-sufficient.

Laws Governing Spousal Support

The laws governing the maintenance component in Missouri divorce laws also sought to change with the changing times. The reasons:

  1. Following the policy of equitable distribution, maintenance should not be gender specific. Any spouse who is unable to meet reasonable needs and has a lesser income qualifies for maintenance.
  2. Maintenance should be awarded only to fill the gap between a spouse’s reasonable expenditure and the earnings of the spouse. The definition of what constitutes as reasonable, including the standard of living during the marriage, is finally the court’s discretion.
  3. Every person has a basic duty to be self-sufficient. Considering this, maintenance should not be permanent. The court can also decide to reduce, or even terminate the maintenance clause if a recipient spouse chooses to intentionally not pursue adequate employment.

While Missouri follows these guidelines, the question arises is, “Is the Missouri law modern enough, or does it need more modern reforms?”

To answer this question, we can look at the state of Florida. Florida provides permanent lifetime alimony, terminating on either remarriage or death. While it is intended for a marriage of long duration (17 years or more), it can be awarded for marriages of shorter duration as well on the basis of proof showing qualifying circumstances.

Such a permanent award of maintenance can lead to problems such as:

  • Permanent alimony leads to inequitable results, where in some cases, alimony is required for more than 30 years, often straining the finances of the paying spouse in later years.
  • It creates negative incentives and recipients often take it for granted.
  • Recipients of permanent also tend to choose to not work and shirk the responsibility of self-sufficiency.

Considering that each case is different, it is difficult to use a one-size-fits-all rule. The Missouri maintenance law allows for flexibility, with the court’s discretion to manage different scenarios.

St. Louis Spousal Support Lawyer

At The Betz Law Firm, we are committed to guiding our clients through the court process with the same level of professionalism that we would wish for our own family members. We are aware of the trust our clients’ place in us with the future of their family and we strive daily to earn it.

If you have any questions regarding your divorce case, contact us today by calling (314) 801-8488 or by filling out our online contact form. Our firm’s goal is to assist families in need to navigate their way through those important, life-changing events.