Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony or spousal support, is a series of payments (typically monthly) that one spouse or former spouse makes to the other. These payments can be required while the divorce process is on-going, as well as after a divorce order is final. The decisions about what the maintenance amount should be and how long it will last can be made by agreement of the parties or by a judge.
Regardless, the details are written into an enforceable court order. Maintenance payments can terminate on a set date or continue indefinitely until such later time as a court makes a modification or the parties agree to a change. Maintenance amounts can be modifiable or non-modifiable depending on circumstances.
In certain circumstances, spousal maintenance could be ordered for a finite term following the end of the marriage to provide the spouse with lower relative income with sufficient financial support while he or she transitions to life as a single, self-supporting individual. This arrangements allows time for a successful job search, completion of certain educational goals or some other known course of action. However, for others, maintenance will be needed for an indefinite period after the divorce until such time as circumstances change to warrant a modification to maintenance.
Permanent spousal maintenance is more accurately described as support for an unknown period of time in an amount that could be later modified if and when the circumstances for either the payor or recipient change. The length of the marriage and the recipient party’s likelihood of being able to take steps to become self-supporting are often the difference between support of a finite duration and indefinite.
The amount of maintenance will also be based on a number of factors set out in the spousal maintenance statute. Among other considerations, the court will look at the needs of the recipient, the ability of the other party to pay support, and the standard of living during the marriage.
As with all forms of maintenance, permanent support will automatically terminate upon death of either party, or the remarriage or cohabitation of the spouse receiving maintenance, unless the parties agree otherwise.
Whether you are the spouse would possibly pay maintenance or the recipient, a Twin Cities divorce attorney can help you determine which of these arrangements is appropriate in given your situation.