Spousal Maintenance

Spousal Maintenance, which used to be called alimony, is money the judge orders one spouse to pay the other souse as part of a divorce proceeding.  Spousal Maintenance is not ordered as part of every divorce, and before the judge can order one spouse to pay maintenance the judge must find legal grounds to do so.

Grounds For Ordering Maintenance

Before a judge can order someone to pay spousal maintenance, the judge must find that the spouse seeking maintenance has proven that he/she either:

  1. Lacks sufficient property to provide for his/her reasonable needs considering the standard of living established during the marriage; or
  2. Considering the standard of living established during the marriage, he/she is  unable to provide adequate self-support through appropriate employment, or is the custodian of a child whose condition makes it such that the spouse seeking maintenance should not be required to work outside of the home.

Examples of Spousal Maintenance Situations

The stereotypical case where spousal maintenance would be ordered involves a 20 year marriage where each spouse is over the age of 50, and the spouse seeking maintenance has been out of the workforce for several years so that his/her earning capacity is significantly reduced.  Think of the stay-at-home mom and the established businessman.  The shorter the marriage and the younger the spouses are, the less likely a judge will order one of them to pay spousal maintenance.  For example, it is very unlikely a judge would order spousal maintenance in a case where the spouses are in their mid-thirties and have been married for only five years.  The exception would be if one of the spouses became disabled during the marriage, or there was a disabled child involved which precluded the custodial spouse from working outside of the home.