What is Spousal Maintenance?

Many people are familiar with the concept of Alimony. But what exactly is spousal maintenance? Is it the same as alimony?

Alimony is no longer awarded in Missouri and has not been for quite some time. The old concept of alimony was based on concepts anchored in traditional gender roles and a fault-based system of divorce.

Since 1975, Missouri has been a “no-fault” state. This means that either spouse can ask for the marriage to be ended not for any specific reason but simply because the marriage is broken and can no longer be saved. The alimony framework was also eliminated.

Today, if either spouse lacks the ability to meet their reasonable needs and cannot work, and the other spouse is able to pay for some of those needs, the court can award spousal maintenance. This award can either be for a specific period of time or ongoing.

How is Maintenance Determined?

RSMo ยง 452.335 says that the court may grant a maintenance order to either spouse, but only if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:

(1) Lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him, to provide for his reasonable needs; and

(2) Is unable to support himself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.

So in sum, it is not enough for a spouse to simply be out of work, the spouse must have needs that cannot be met and there must be a good reason why the spouse cannot be expected to support themselves through employment. If these conditions are satisfied, then the question is how much should be awarded.

If a Spouse Needs Maintenance, How Much Should an Award Be?

Unlike some states, like Illinois, for example, there is no formula to determine how much maintenance a spouse should receive. Missouri law requires a court to consider the following when determining how much a maintenance award should be:

(1) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party as custodian;

(2) The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment;

(3) The comparative earning capacity of each spouse;

(4) The standard of living established during the marriage;

(5) The obligations and assets, including the marital property apportioned to him and the separate property of each party;

(6) The duration of the marriage;

(7) The age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;

(8) The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;

(9) The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and

(10) Any other relevant factors.

As you can see from the above, a court has a lot of leeway to use its judgment. Based on the factors above, it is worth nothing that a need is not a guarantee of an award. Sometimes one spouse has a need and can qualify for spousal maintenance, but the other spouse lacks the resources to pay maintenance. In those circumstances a court may find that the appropriate award is zero.

In an uncontested divorce, the spouses can agree on the amount and duration of an award and simply include this in their settlement agreement. It is important to specify the duration unless it should continue indefinitely, and any termination events. For example, one spouse might receive maintenance “for 5 years or until remarriage, whichever comes first.”

What is marital property in Missouri?

A common divorce question is, “What is marital property in Missouri?” The easy answer is that anything a couple accumulates during their marriage is considered marital property. This includes both assets (stuff) and liabilities (stuff you owe). Here is the important part most people miss: it doesn’t matter who bought it, who earned the money that bought it, whose name is on the title, or whose name is on the debt. Really.

So what isn’t marital property?

Not all property is marital. The property and debts each spouse owns prior to the marriage remain separate property in most circumstances. Anything gifted to or bequeathed to (inherited by) one spouse alone is also considered separate property.

Are those labels set in stone?

No. Separate property can be converted to marital property in a variety of ways. For example, if one spouse inherited a house during the marriage, but then adds the other spouse’s name to the deed, uses marital funds to make major repairs and the mortgage payments, and the couple lives in the house, then there is a good argument that the spouse has converted the house from separate property to marital property. These circumstances are very fact specific. If you have a questionable item, you should get help from a lawyer to determine the correct classification of the property.

What is an uncontested divorce in Missouri?

The short answer to the question “What does ‘uncontested divorce’ mean?” is that a husband and wife agree that they no longer want to be married to each other and agree on exactly how they wanted to conclude their marriage before they file any documents with the Court asking it to dissolve their marriage.

Sound simple? Well, that’s because it is. It can be a very easy way to get divorced. Uncontested divorce is by far the easiest and cheapest way to get divorced in Missouri.

Here is what needs to be decided between the divorcing spouses:

  • That the marriage is irretrievably broken.
  • How to divide the marital property including personal property, household goods, real property, retirement plans etc.
  • Whether one or both parents will make major decisions on behalf of any children.
  • A parenting schedule that lays out when each parent has custody of the children.
  • If one parent will need to pay child support to the other, the amount and method of payment. (To learn how child support is calculated in Missouri, click here).
  • If one spouse needs Maintenance (Alimony) and for how long.

For most couples with simple assets and no children this should be easy to negotiate if both spouses are interested in saving time and money in the divorce process.

Uncontested divorce is also a really good option for couples with children and simple assets who are willing to work together to make a parenting plan.