Spousal maintenance, formerly known as alimony, is one of the more difficult issues to tackle during the dissolution process. With the exception of child custody, no other issue is as personal or emotionally charged to divorce litigants.
It is quite difficult to predict exactly how much spousal maintenance the court will award a particular party. The court will examine a host of factors, and each play a part in the decision-making process. For that reason, alimony is decided on a case-by-case basis.
The court will examine the standard of living established during the marriage. Based upon that standard, it will take into account the anticipated ongoing monthly expenses of each spouse. The question for the court involves whether these alleged expenses are reasonable under the circumstances. The court will compare the expenses against the income of each litigant. If a litigant faces a monthly shortfall, the party will have a need for spousal support. If a litigant faces a monthly windfall, they will have the ability to pay spousal maintenance. These elements are measured against the length of the parties’ marriage, the age of the parties, the educational background of the parties and the mental and physical health of the parties.
Once all of the elements are considered, the court will determine whether an award is appropriate, how much the monthly award should be and the length of time paying party will be obligated to support their former spouse. The longer the marriage, the more likely a permanent award of spousal maintenance will be granted. With shorter marriages, the court may consider an award of temporary spousal maintenance so that other party has an opportunity to reeducate themselves, reestablish their career path and become self-supporting.