Spousal Support in Gray Divorce
Divorce After 50 & Spousal Support Lawyers in Creve Coeur & O’Fallon
Getting divorced can be one of the most challenging things you go through, but it may be especially hard if you are older and have been married for a long time. Divorce after 50, also called “gray divorce,” is not the same as a typical divorce. There may be several differences in the circumstances that may impact things such as spousal maintenance. At The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C., our experienced divorce lawyers recognize the challenges couples over 50 face during divorce – and we are focused on addressing the needs of our older clients. Our knowledge and understanding of the issues help us provide guidance and skilled representation to clients going through the process of a gray divorce.
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Spousal Support Attorneys in St. Louis and St. Charles County
If you are considering divorce and are over age 50, the potential financial consequences of ending your marriage probably weigh heavily on your mind. Spousal support, called spousal maintenance in Missouri, refers to payments that one spouse makes to the other during the divorce process and post-divorce. Spousal support could be awarded in any divorce case, but this type of financial support is more frequently awarded in divorce cases involving spouses who have been married for a long time.
When Do Missouri Courts Award Spousal Support?
Some may feel that whether and how much spousal maintenance is awarded seems completely discretionary. However, Missouri statute does provide judges with guidance. A Missouri court may grant maintenance only if it determines that a spouse lacks sufficient property to provide for their reasonable needs (this includes property awarded during the divorce) and is unable to support themself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child that makes employment outside the home unreasonable. Thus, for a court to even consider awarding maintenance, it must first find that a spouse really cannot meet their reasonable needs through their own efforts.
But what does “reasonable needs” really mean?
To Missouri courts, reasonable needs are more objective than subjective. The spouse must put forth a monthly expense budget that the court determines is reasonable and necessary to maintain roughly the same standard of living as the spouse enjoyed during the marriage. Not all courts will allow the standard of living adjustment – it depends on the duration of the marriage and the reasonableness of the budget.
But a spouse may not just assume they will receive a monthly check forever. Missouri courts require a spouse to pursue self-sufficiency and make efforts to be reasonably employed. This is, again, both objective and subjective. If a spouse has sufficient education and training in a career, they are presumed capable of resuming that career. If additional education and training are needed, the spouse should pursue that avenue to become as self-sufficient as possible. Only age, ability, and medical condition limitations would constrict a court in imposing some level of full-time employment.
If the court concludes that the spouse needs financial assistance to meet monthly needs, the court considers ten factors to determine the amount:
- The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance
- The time necessary to pursue additional education or training
- The comparative earning capacity of each spouse
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The obligations and assets apportioned to each spouse during the dissolution
- The duration of the marriage
- The age, physical and emotional condition of each spouse
- The ability of the spouse paying maintenance to meet their personal needs and also contribute to the needs of the spouse receiving maintenance
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage
- Any other relevant factors
The court has specific direction on how to arrive at a reasonable maintenance sum. In general, the court is more likely to award some maintenance the longer the marriage was, especially if the dependent spouse cared for the children for most of the marriage. The court will examine the receiving spouse’s monthly expenses budget and determine the gap between expenses and reasonable income. The maintenance sum will fill the gap, subject to the other spouse’s ability to afford it.
Hence, maintenance is a guided process for the court, and parties seeking or opposing maintenance know what evidence they need to introduce or challenge to address an appropriate sum for maintenance. We understand that divorce over 50 can result in many unexpected financial implications. We know that in long-term marriages, one spouse has often been out of the workforce for many years while the other spouse was the primary wage earner. When such a couple gets divorced, the spouse who has not worked generally does not have the necessary skills to obtain a job that will fully support them. Obtaining the needed skills or education is not always feasible, making spousal support even more important.
In other situations, one or both spouses may be receiving Social Security benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability (SSDI). Maintenance payments can affect a spouse’s eligibility for SSI benefits, but the laws that govern such situations are very complex, so it is crucial to work closely with a qualified spousal support attorney as you go through the process.
Contact Our St. Louis County & St. Charles County Gray Divorce Attorneys
If you are over age 50 and are thinking about divorce, you probably have questions about whether spousal support will be awarded. Call The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C. today at 314-993-6300 to discuss your questions and get the answers you need about the divorce process.
At The Marks Law Firm, L.L.C., our lawyers can also help you address many of the practical concerns associated with your gray divorce. Additionally, we provide guidance with drafting prenuptial agreements for individuals over 50 who are looking to get married again. Contact us today to schedule an initial divorce consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.
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