Missouri maintenance law has some traditional and some modern aspects.
For most divorcing couples, whether spousal maintenance – a legal obligation of money support payments from one ex-spouse to the other – is awarded can make a big difference in the future economic situation for each of them. Historically called alimony, Missouri statutes now refer to these support payments as maintenance.
First, the parties may decide to negotiate an agreement about whether maintenance will be paid as well as its terms such as amount and duration. Missouri allows the spouses to negotiate maintenance as the subject of a separate private contract or as part of an overall marital settlement agreement that is normally incorporated into the final divorce decree.
Should the parties fail to agree on maintenance, the issue will fall to the judge in the divorce proceeding. Some states give judges wide discretion to decide whether to award maintenance, but in Missouri the law requires that the court make some initial findings in order to grant it.
Those requirements reflect a more modern trend among some other states that a party seeking maintenance not be able to support themselves. Missouri statute requires that the spouse requesting maintenance not have the assets to meet their own reasonable needs. In addition, they either must not be able to support themselves by working or must have custody of a child whose “condition or circumstances” make it proper that they not work.
Should this threshold be met, and the prospective maintenance recipient be eligible for a maintenance award, the court then determines the amount and duration of the award after weighing all relevant factors in their particular circumstances. State statute requires the judge to consider some specific factors:
- The recipient’s money and property and ability to meet their own needs
- The time it would take for the recipient to get the education or training to get an appropriate job
- Each party’s earning capacity
- The marital standard of living
- Each party’s debts, portion of the marital assets granted in the divorce, and separate property
- Length of marriage
- The recipient’s age and physical and emotional health
- The payor spouse’s ability to meet their own needs if they pay maintenance
- Each party’s conduct during marriage
This last factor is more traditional in that some states do not allow any consideration of marital misconduct in questions relating to alimony or maintenance. Marital misconduct was historically more important in maintenance and other aspects of divorce in many states and this remains the case in Missouri maintenance decisions.
The judge must also indicate if the maintenance order will be modifiable or nonmodifiable in the future. The court may order a duration with a specific termination date. A maintenance award that is modifiable may be amended in the future if one of the parties can show the court a “substantial and continuing change of circumstances.”
This is a brief overview of Missouri spousal maintenance law. Anyone in Missouri with questions about alimony or divorce in general should seek the advice of an experienced family lawyer.
The lawyers at Stange Law Firm, PC, with offices throughout Missouri, represent divorcing clients in maintenance matters as well as a broad range of divorce and family law issues. They also represent family law clients in Illinois, Kansas and Oklahoma.