Maintenance (sometimes called alimony or spousal support) can often be a hotly contested issue in a dissolution proceeding. The intent of a maintenance award is to provide a party with financial support when the party cannot financially support him or herself. Maintenance is not intended as a punishment against the higher earning spouse, nor is guaranteed to be ordered in every case. Rather, a court must make a decision about a maintenance award after considering the division of martial property and debts and after considering several factors, including items such as the lifestyle during the marriage and the financial resources of each party.
Maintenance may be awarded on a temporary basis while a legal proceeding is pending and/or on a permanent basis. However, it is important to know that the maintenance law changed drastically on January 1, 2014, when the state legislature created guidelines for a court to consider when determining a maintenance award. These new guidelines provide a formula for the court to consider when determining the amount of maintenance. Additionally, the law provides guidance on the duration that maintenance should be paid for. While the law is clear that these are simply guidelines for the court to consider and are not mandatory, many if not most judges are using these guidelines to assist them when entering maintenance orders.
It is also important to understand that there are two types of maintenance—statutory/modifiable maintenance and contractual/non-modifiable maintenance. Generally speaking, the amount and/or duration of maintenance can be modified by the court if a party meets certain statutory requirements. However, if parties wish to remove the ability to modify a maintenance award, they may agree to contractual/non-modifiable maintenance. Contractual/non-modifiable maintenance allows parties to agree upon the amount and duration of maintenance and agree that neither party may seek a later modification of either from the court.
There are many factors and legal arguments surrounding spousal maintenance. Whether you are seeking an award of maintenance or seek to limit your exposure to paying maintenance, Laura Monty Law, LLC can help. To set up an initial consultation with Ms. Monty, please contact us at 970-797-3407 or through our online Contact Us form.