Area of Law:
In the event of a divorce, if either spouse does not have a separate estate, or if a spouse's assets are not sufficient to offer a means of support, a judge might order alimony, which is also known as maintenance in Missouri. Alimony is usually a monthly financial allowance paid by one spouse to another.
To be eligible for alimony, spouses in all states, including Missouri, must have been legally married. Alimony is usually based on a settlement agreement made between the spouses or the discretion of a judge. In most states, alimony awards lack the enforcement power that child support orders have, which include wage garnishment and property liens. Recipient spouses do have the option of returning to court to force payment through a contempt action.
A Missouri court can order temporary support to be paid while the divorce is pending. Most maintenance is ordered for a specific length of time, not indefinitely. Once maintenance is ordered and it has been designated as modifiable by the court, it can be modified based on a showing of a substantial and continuing change in circumstances. For a summary of maintenance laws in Missouri, go to divorcesource.com.
To receive alimony in Missouri, a spouse has to pass a two-part threshold test showing that he or she lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her needs; this includes marital property awarded to him or her in the dissolution, and that he or she is unable to support him/herself through a job, or that he or she is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it inappropriate for him or her to work. If a spouse passes this test, Missouri law recommends that courts consider the following factors when awarding alimony:
- The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The time necessary for the spouse seeking maintenance to acquire sufficient education or training to enable him or her to find appropriate employment
- The comparative earning capacity of each spouse
- The standard of living established during the marriage
- The obligations and assets of each spouse
- The length of the marriage
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The ability of the other spouse to meet his or her needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage
In the United States, alimony is treated differently tax wise from child support payments. In Missouri, alimony is deductible for the person who pays it and taxable income for the person who receives it under the rules of the Internal Revenue Service, while child support is not.
In the past, most alimony awards were made to homemakers who needed the support from their former husbands. However, since current marriages often consist of two wage earners, and more men are assuming child-rearing duties, alimony awards have changed. It is no longer unusual for an ex-wife to be compelled to make alimony payments to her ex-husband. For a full review of divorce and alimony in Missouri, go to lawyers.com.