This is a common question among divorcing spouses. Am I going to be obligated to pay my soon-to-be ex-spouse spousal maintenance?
While there is no “formula” for spousal maintenance in Missouri, as there is for child support, the court considers two main factors: (1) whether the requesting party needs spousal maintenance, and (2) whether the paying party has the ability to pay spousal maintenance.
If a spouse has a job but is unable to meet his or her reasonable needs on that salary, the other spouse may be ordered to pay maintenance to supplement those needs. Can the receiving spouse become self-supporting? Will additional time in the workforce or more education allow the receiving spouse to become self-supporting? If the receiving spouse is not employed, what is the reason, and how long will it take to become employed? All of these questions need to be considered in determining if the need for maintenance is present.
What about the paying spouse? Can that spouse meet his or her own needs and still pay spousal maintenance? The paying spouse cannot be ordered to pay more than he or she can afford because he or she has individual monthly expenses to meet. Keep in mind that saving for retirement or going on vacation will take a backseat to spousal support. The expenses of the paying spouse must be reasonable in nature, for such expenses for housing, insurance, transportation, etc. Unreasonable monthly expenses will be discredited by the court.
Of course, the court can also look at factors such as the duration of the marriage, the age of the parties, the physical and mental health of the parties, marital misconduct, earning capacity, education level, employment history, any special needs of the party or of the children that may affect employment outside the home after divorce.
While this issue is not a clear-cut one in a divorce proceeding, the knowledge your attorney has with the court, and the knowledge base in determining your potential obligation, is critical. If you are considering divorce, and have questions about your potential spousal maintenance obligation, call us to further discuss your unique situation.