The What, Why & How of Alimony a/k/a Spousal Maintenance
What is Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance is the payment of support by one spouse to the other spouse.
How to prove the need for Spousal Maintenance?
Spousal maintenance awards are granted if the spouse seeking maintenance can show the Court that he or she:
lacks sufficient property to provide for the reasonable needs of the spouse based upon the standard of living established during the marriage; or
lacks sufficient property to provide for the reasonable needs of the spouse during a period of the spouse’s training or education based upon the standard of living established during the marriage; or
is unable to provide adequate self-support, based upon the standard of living established during the marriage; or
is the custodian of a child whose condition and circumstances make it appropriate that the spouse not be required to seek employment outside the home.
How to prove the amount and duration of Spousal Maintenance?
To determine the amount and duration of spousal maintenance, the Courts consider the following factors:
financial resources of the spouse seeking spousal maintenance;
amount of time that is necessary for the spouse seeking spousal maintenance to acquire necessary skills or education to find appropriate employment;
age and physical and emotional health of the recipient spouse;
standard of living established during the marriage;
length of the marriage;
contribution and economic sacrifices of a homemaker including loss of seniority, retirement benefits and other employment opportunities lost while working at home; and
financial resources available to the spouse from whom spousal maintenance is sought.
The Court will consider all factors when determining whether spousal maintenance is appropriate. The Court will not award spousal maintenance based upon a single factor.
Spousal Maintenance Buy-Out:
Instead of paying spousal maintenance over a period of time, it is advantageous in some cases to provide for a lump sum buy-out. This buy-out may be in a form of a property settlement or onetime cash payment to the spouse receiving the spousal maintenance.
When deciding whether to accept a buy-out many factors must be considered including: (1) the present value of the marital assets; (2) the tax consequences of accepting the offer; (3) the value of the property being paid and/or received; and (4) the likelihood of payment actually being paid. In most cases, the buy-out will be less than that of the total value of spousal maintenance if it had been paid over time.