The issue of spousal maintenance is a relatively complicated issue, and here’s why. It’s based on a series of factors as opposed to say child support, which is based on a formula. The calculation of spousal maintenance is a complicated one. It goes something like this. First and foremost, the spouse who is seeking an award of alimony bears the burden of proving that they have a need for spousal maintenance.
What they’ll do is put together a budget and that budget will outline their anticipated expenses going forward. That budget must be reasonable in light of the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.
So for example, if a spouse routinely drove a Chevrolet during the marriage, they couldn’t put a Cadillac payment down on their new budget. And the other hand, if they did drive the Cadillac during the marriage, it would not be unreasonable for them to include the Cadillac car payment in that budget. And so lifestyle enjoyed during the marriage plays a rather significant role in determining the reasonableness of one’s budget.
So once that budget is presented, the person seeking alimony will also have to demonstrate what their ongoing income sources are. And the question becomes A, do they have sufficient income to meet their needs? And B, are they employed to the greatest extent that they are capable. And if there is a need, if there is a shortfall in terms of cashflow, then they have actually demonstrated that they have the opportunity to pursue the issue of spousal maintenance.
But once the spouse in need of alimony has actually demonstrated that need, the court will then turn to the spouse who is being asked to pay. And that same type of analysis will be conducted. The parties’ expenses, as a they are known, will have to present their budget. They’ll have to have their income and financial resources scrutinized to determine whether they have the ability to pay.
If they have the ability to pay, then the question becomes how much alimony is appropriate and for how long? Alimony can be either temporary or permanent, and typically the length of one’s marriage dictates the length of time that his spouse is capable of of receiving alimony following a divorce.
In addition, there will be a question about the educational background and the employment opportunities that may be out there for the recipient spouse. In most shorter marriages, there is an obligation for one to rehabilitate is what it’s known as under the law, to try to become as gainfully employed as possible.
And in that scenario it may take a spouse who’s been perhaps out of the workforce for a couple of years home raising children to get retrained or reeducated. And so even if it’s a marriage, the court and the law will support the idea that for a time at least the recipient of alimony will get some assistance on a go forward basis.
In terms of a more long-term marriage, the court is more likely to award alimony on a longer term basis. Typically, that’s known as a permanent spousal maintenance award. But it’s important to understand that permanent doesn’t mean permanent. It’s actually more of an indefinite type of award.
What I mean is this, that anytime there is a substantial change in circumstance, whether it’s a remarriage, or whether there’s a retirement, or one parties found a new job, has a new income level, that is subject to change. And so permanent does not mean now and forever, it simply means until there is a significant change in circumstance.
One key thing to keep in mind in terms of alimony are the tax implications associated with it. Generally speaking, it’s important to know that alimony is taxable income to the recipient and it’s tax deductible to the one who pays.