Spousal Support and Alimony FAQs

What is the difference between spousal support and alimony or maintenance?

Spousal support, alimony, and maintenance are all different names for payment of support provided by one spouse to another. Alimony is a historical name and was meant to be more of a punitive measure. It is a term that is no longer commonly used. However, spousal support and maintenance are often used interchangeably in today's world. In many divorce proceedings, spousal support is a major focal point. This is particularly true when one spouse has been a stay-at-home parent and has not worked in recent years. Every state has their own guidelines about what these types of payments are called and how they are calculated.

How does a judge determine if I qualify to receive spousal support?

Spousal support, sometimes referred to as spousal maintenance or alimony, is not automatic. Courts have broad discretion to award maintenance or not award it. It is important to look at the laws in each state as they differ in how spousal support is determined and what factors are used. Some of the factors when considering spousal support may include such things as:

  • The need of one spouse versus the other spouse's ability to pay
  • The earning capacity of each spouse
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and health of the spouse seeking support
  • The impact on the children
  • The conduct of the parties during the marriage

What is permanent spousal support? Under what conditions might a judge order it?

Permanent spousal support continues until the death of the payor, the death of the recipient or the remarriage of the recipient. In some cases it can continue after the remarriage of the recipient. It is a good idea, if you are receiving permanent spousal support to request that your spouse carry a life insurance policy with you as the beneficiary. If he/she dies you will not have to suffer the financial consequences of losing your spousal support.

Do men ever receive spousal support?

Yes. Women are the sole or primary breadwinners in 4 out of 10 households with children, according to a 2013 report by the Pew Research Center. This has happened by choice, by chance, or by need per a new survey of 2,000 working moms and dads conducted by Working Mother Media. a rise in men asking ex-wives for spousal support is also increasing as more women become breadwinners. Although up-to-date numbers are unclear, according to 2010 Census records, of the 400,000 people receiving spousal support, only 3 percent were men. Fast forward to 2013, when the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers surveyed its 1,600 members and found that 47 percent had noticed an increase in the number of women who are paying alimony. As women increasingly become chief breadwinners, and with the ascent of stay-at-home fathers, the number of men seeking alimony from their ex-wives is expected to rise as social mores change.

What can the spousal support recipient do to protect against the payments ending with the payor's death or disability?

It is a good idea, if you are receiving spousal support to request that your spouse carry a life insurance policy with you as the beneficiary. If he/she dies you will not have to suffer the financial consequences of losing your spousal support. It also may be a good idea to work towards becoming self sufficient while the support payments are still being made.

Do I have to pay spousal support if my ex is living with a new romantic partner?

This varies from state to state. The fact that your ex has moved in with a significant other does not change your obligation to pay alimony, unless it is modified by a new court order. If the spouse who is receiving maintenance payments remarries, then maintenance will generally terminate. In certain circumstances, cohabitation may result in termination of maintenance as well, but you would need to consult with an attorney about the specifics. Once the supported spouse enters into a new marital partnership, the supporting spouse is no longer financially obligated to continue paying maintenance.

In Missouri, to modify alimony payments it must be shown there are changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the original award unreasonable. The court, in determining whether or not a substantial change in circumstances has occurred, shall consider all financial resources of both parties, including the extent to which the reasonable expenses of either party are, or should be, shared by a spouse or other person with whom he or she cohabits, and the earning capacity of a party who is not employed. In Missouri, a cohabitation relationship is one where the couple shares bank accounts, credit cards, lists one another as beneficiaries on life insurance policies, jointly titles property, and takes other actions tantamount to marriage.

Contact a Spousal Support Attorney Today in Missouri, Illinois and Kansa

If you are going through a family law case dealing with spousal support, the attorneys of Stange Law Firm, PC would be happy to help in the Midwest in St. Louis, Kansas Ciy, Columbia, Springfield and beyond. Contact us online or by calling any one of our locations below.