Typically during the initial divorce consultation with a family law attorney, that family law practitioner will evaluate your circumstances to determine if one spouse may be required to provide financial assistance to the other spouse to help support them after the divorce process is completed. While this spouse to spouse financial support is often referred to as “alimony”, in our Missouri legal system this financial contribution is referred to as “maintenance”. What factors will your attorney and family law judge consider in making this maintenance evaluation?
In Missouri, this evaluation begins with a statutory, two -part threshold test, specifically,
1) Is there sufficient property, including marital property, apportioned to a spouse to meet his or her reasonable needs; or
2) Is the spouse capable through appropriate employment to meet his or her reasonable needs, or is an employable spouse the physical custodian of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate that spouse not seek employment at this time.
Factors Considered To Determine The Amount and Length of Award:
If this threshold is not met, it is unlikely that any maintenance will be awarded. If this threshold is met, only then will the court consider other factors to determine the amount and the length of any maintenance award. A partial summary of the specific factors that will be considered to determine the amount and length of maintenance include:
1) The two threshold factors will be considered in conjunction with a separate award of child support, in light of what is necessary to meet his or her reasonable needs;
2) The amount of time that the spouse will need to acquire sufficient training to find employment to meet his or her reasonable needs;
3) The comparative earning capacity of both spouses;
4) The standard of living of the parties;
5) The length of the marriage;
6) The ability of the other spouse to make a financial contribution in the form of maintenance, considering their ability to meet their own reasonable needs;
7) The age and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
8) The relevant conduct of the parties during the marriage
Who Your Judge Is Will Play A Large Role In Determining Maintenance:
It is important to realize that while our Missouri statute enumerates specific factors, summarized above, your judge has specific discretion to consider “any” relevant factor.
Further unlike the statutory method in Missouri used to calculate the amount of a child support award, which gives your lawyer and judge a specific method to determine a “presumed” amount of child support, the guidelines provided are not nearly as specific to determine the amount of an award of maintenance, nor is there a legally “presumed” amount of maintenance that your judge will consider.
Therefore, this evaluation must be done in light of the specific history of those factors your family court judge believes is important to this analysis.
If the judge presiding over your divorce has an established and consistent track record of what factors are important to him in an award of maintenance, your attorney should be able to evaluate your maintenance case in light of those specific factors and advise you if there will be an award if maintenance. The methodology your judge uses to determine the amount of a monthly maintenance award may not always be consistent. But if it is, your attorney may also be able to advise you relatively early in the process as to the likely amount of maintenance.
The Importance Of Your Initial Financial Documents:
With your initial pleadings filed in a divorce action you will be required to submit a financial disclosure detailing your monthly income, your monthly expenses, your financial assets and your financial liabilities. This same financial disclosure will be filed by your spouse. While it is not uncommon for these documents to be supplemented, amended or even the accuracy of the content to be challenged during the divorce process, they will often be used as a preliminary tool to make an early evaluation by the court on the need of the requesting spouse for maintenance and ability of the other spouse to pay for maintenance. Therefore, if you are involved in a divorce where maintenance may become a contested issue, it is critical that you work with your lawyer to insure that your financial filings are accurately and thoroughly completed.
Modifiable Maintenance v. Term Maintenance:
Generally, there are two types of recurring monthly maintenance awards in Missouri: The first is Modifiable monthly maintenance which does not have a specific end date and will terminate only upon the remarriage of the receiving spouse, the death of either spouse or a Modification Judgment entered in the family court, ending the maintenance obligation. The second is a maintenance award for a specific term, or length of time. This type of term maintenance is generally non-modifiable during the length of the term and will end at the expiration of that term. For a more detailed discussion of factors involved in these types maintenance awards as well as a gross maintenance award, visit our blog again soon.
If you find yourself facing divorce in St. Charles County, St. Louis County, Warren County or Lincoln County you should contact our office today for a free consultation about your particular situation.