Maintenance / Alimony

Maintenance is spousal support, formerly known as alimony. In certain cases, maintenance is neither sought nor awarded. For example, in a short-term marriage in which the earnings of both parties are substantially the same, it is doubtful maintenance would be awarded. Conversely, in a long-term marriage in which there exists few assets but one spouse's income is great and the other spouse's income is not, maintenance is probably quite appropriate, especially if a child support award is not applicable. Unlike child support, there are no hard and fast rules regarding the amount or duration of maintenance, so you need to speak with an experienced attorney and/or obtain a second opinion on your potential right to receive or duty to pay maintenance, which varies in amount and duration depending on many factors.

In 2015 our Legislature attempted to make the determination of the amount and length of maintenance a bit more formulaic. In short, the amount of maintenance or spousal support could be 30% of the paying spouse’s gross income, less 20% of the receiving spouse’s income (if any), not to exceed 40% of the parties’ combined gross income when added to the paying spouse’s gross income. In addition, the duration of the award is roughly as follows:

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Maintenance / Alimony Continued

Length of Marriage

Duration of Maintenance

0-5 years

0-1 year

5-10 years

2-4 years

10-15 years

4-9 years

15-20 years

12-16 years

20 years plus

permanent or equal to length of marriage

Maintenance is typically tax deductible by the obligor (the person who pays) and taxable to the obligee (the person who receives). Maintenance generally terminates after a certain length of time, the death of either party, the remarriage or cohabitation with another adult by the obligee, and in other circumstances. The obligee generally has a duty to rehabilitate himself or herself into the workplace to become self-supportive, unless this is unrealistic because of age, health, or some other legitimate reason, in which case maintenance may be “permanent” (i.e. indefinite). Sometimes in lieu of maintenance, a disproportionately favorable award (more than 50%) of the marital assets is awarded to the lesser-earning spouse.

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