Spousal maintenance, also commonly known as alimony or spousal support, may be an issue when one spouse was the primary income provider for the family. After the divorce, persons may need supplemental income until they can be self-supporting. However, spousal maintenance is not automatically awarded to a party upon request. Divorcing or separating spouses often need legal counsel to assert their rights and interests and to present a solid case either for or against a claim for spousal maintenance, depending upon the circumstances at hand.
The goal in seeking spousal maintenance is not to punish the other party, but rather to seek payment in situations where it is really needed. Examples of these situations include:
- Spouse did not work during the marriage or has been out of the workforce for a lengthy period of time.
- Spouse cannot work because of illness, injury or disability.
- Spouse has limited job skills and education.
- One spouse paid for the other’s education or medical bills before the divorce.
- One spouse would have a significant drop in living standards without supplemental income.
Spousal maintenance awards are not always permanent; in fact, they are commonly meant to be temporary in nature, and only as long as the receiving spouse reasonably needs in order to return to the workforce or to obtain a suitable education. In situations involving repayment for educational expenses paid during the marriage, spousal maintenance is only available until the repayment is complete. Effective representation requires knowledge of these and other spousal support guidelines as well as effective negotiation and litigation skills in order to begin receiving or to continue receiving payments.