Spousal support, also known as spousal maintenance (and formerly called alimony) is money paid from one spouse to the other once a marriage has ended. While the words are different, the meaning is the same and if you are currently going through a divorce, you should be familiar with how maintenance will affect your specific situation. As the holiday season comes to a close, divorce rates typically rise. Add a COVID catalyst to the mix and the first quarter of 2021 has the potential to see a dramatic spike in divorce filings.
Components of Spousal Maintenance
The amount and duration of spousal support is computed using one of several formulas, however this is often only the starting point. Many factors, both statutory and those derived from caselaw, can be argued to alter the amount and duration of maintenance.
There are several myths or stereotypes surrounding spousal maintenance which you must know as you go through the process. Some of the major myths are:
Due to COVID, I lost my job/business, so I don’t have to pay Spousal Maintenance.
False. COVID has caused unemployment rates to sky-rocket and businesses to shut down. However, this does not mean you can simply take self-help measures to unilaterally reduce or end your spousal maintenance obligation. A spousal maintenance obligation is a court order, and your willful failure to pay could result in your incarceration.
If you find yourself in a position where you can no longer pay maintenance, the legal onus is on you to file the correct paperwork which asks the court to lower or suspend your obligation.
The husband is always the party who must pay spousal maintenance, never the wife.
False. Courts do not base their decision to award spousal maintenance on gender. Maintenance awards are based largely, but not exclusively, on the individual income of each party.
My spouse refuses to fulfill her maintenance obligation to me, so I am NOT going to sign over the time share/car/stock portfolio to her as directed in our Judgment of Divorce.
False. Again, the court will penalize a party who uses self-help measures, even if their intention is to simply recoup assets to make up for what they are owed.
The correct course of action in this scenario is to file the appropriate paperwork with the court and request the party in violation be held accountable (along with payment of your attorney’s fees of course).
We were married for 15 years, I’m only 40 years old, and now I have to pay her maintenance for the rest of my life!!
False. While lifetime maintenance is a very rare possibility, it only applies in specific instances. Duration of the marriage, education, employment history, and the parties’ health are just a few of the factors which are considered when we determine duration of a spousal maintenance award.
If you are facing a divorce, it doesn’t matter what your financial situation is—you undoubtedly have financial concerns. Before you begin down that path, you should speak with a divorce attorney to find out if such a drastic and final change is the right thing for you. Legal counsel can help you to explore other options that may be available to you, such as a legal separation.
There are many factors that need to be accounted for before making such a life-changing decision. If you have any questions or would like to speak to schedule a consultation, please contact AJ Iuele at 845-298-2000 or email him here.