The modern age has really changed the way couples live and interact with one another. Just 50 years ago, it was common place that the husband was the primary moneymaker of the family, while the wife generally stayed home with the kids. However, as we progress as a society we have started to see this taking a new turn, with 47% of people in the workplace being women.

These days, both parents are required to work to be able to support the family. This has greatly affected what happens if a couple winds up getting a divorce. When men were primarily the “bread winners” in the family, if a divorce ever occurred it was more than likely that it would be the ex-husband paying spousal maintenance to his ex-wife. Now that both parents are most likely working, it adds new variables in to who and why spousal maintenance must be paid.

At JacksonWhite, our experienced family law team has been helping families settle a wide range of matters for over a decade, including spousal maintenance. If you are looking for help in determining your spousal maintenance, give us a call at (480) 467-4348 or fill out a form online.

What is Spousal Maintenance?

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, spousal maintenance is another way to describe alimony. Alimony is the amount of money paid to one spouse by the other as awarded by the court.

Where it used to be in the vast majority of cases that the man would wind up paying spousal maintenance to his ex-wife, a number of factors determine if money will be paid now, the amount that will be paid, and for how long it will be paid.

For example, in marriages where both spouses are working, there is a great chance that one spouse will receive support if there is a drastic difference between the amount of money the two are making. For example, if the wife is making $100,000 a year while the husband is earning $20,000, there is a good chance that the wife would have to pay some form of spousal maintenance to her ex-husband.

The length of the marriage is also a significant factor. Short duration marriages, usually less than five years, will rarely result in one spouse receiving a spousal maintenance sum. While this is not the rule in every case, the truth is that most of the time, the courts have found that it is unnecessary for a spouse to be paying support because of how short the marriage lasted.

In some instances, judges have ruled that a spouse should pay support for a short duration of time. It may be that they are required to pay a certain amount of money while the other finishes up their education or to allow for the other spouse to find a job. Generally, only a short-term amount is paid when allocated.

How is Spousal Maintenance Determined?

When making a decision, the judge asks him or herself two questions. The first one is if one spouse is entitled to spousal maintenance. As mentioned before, a number of factors go into determining this, including such things as the length of the marriage if one spouse is working and the other is not, if one spouse makes significantly more money than the other, and if one spouse is going to be the primary custodial parent. The judge considers such factors when determining if spousal maintenance is necessary.

Children are always a key factor involved. While both parents may be able to work, if it is deemed by the court that one needs to spend more time at home with the children then this can also result in alimony payments being made. The inability of the one spouse to work to care for the children is determined as a factor by the court.

If the first question is answered yes, then the second question is how much spousal maintenance should be paid each month and for how long? There is nothing that binds the court to make alimony payments a lifetime obligation. The court could determine that for a one-year, five-year, or 10-year period of time that the one spouse is obligated to pay spousal maintenance, but that obligation ends at a certain point.

As mentioned, the court could determine that spousal maintenance is paid until the other spouse completes his or her education. If one spouse is attending a university working toward a degree when the marriage dissolves, the court could deem that alimony is required until the degree is completed. They could also rule that the one spouse will pay alimony until the other spouse finds a job.

What the court is trying to maintain is the standard of living that was established during the marriage. This means that if the couple lived well-off when they were married, that should still be maintained after their divorce. One spouse should not be living exceptionally well while the other is struggling to get the basic necessities.

Spousal Maintenance Can Change

It should also be noted that one spouse can return to court seeking to adjust the spousal maintenance amount. Even if there is a 10-year duration of time that the one spouse is obligated to pay, he or she can return to court, if circumstances have changed, seeking to have the amount or duration changed.

One such example might be if the other spouse has begun a relationship where he or she is living with another person, where that person is paying the vast majority of their expenses. If the other spouse has found a job that pays a much higher earning wage, spousal maintenance may be adjusted. These are just a couple of reasons why the court may deem it necessary to make an adjustment.

Seek the Council of a Family Law Attorney

Whether you are going through a divorce or are involved in an adjustment for spousal maintenance, it is important that you seek the assistance of an attorney to help you through these proceedings. This is not something you want to battle on your own, as you may wind up with an incredibly unfair determination by the court related to spousal maintenance. Having an attorney to represent you will help protect your rights and ensure that ruling of the court is as just and fair as possible.


Call the Family Law Team at (480) 467-4348 to discuss your case today.

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