Knowing Your Rights and Obligations Concerning Alimony/Spousal Maintenance
Divorce is a Pandora’s Box of issues. One of the most controversial, as well as contentious, revolves around alimony. Alimony, or spousal maintenance, is a type of support where one spouse is ordered by the court to provide for the other after separation or divorce. The financial support comes from the spouse who earns significantly more income, and it typically covers enough for the other spouse to continue living under quality living conditions.
Just from the definition, alimony already sounds like a headache. Understanding and negotiating spousal maintenance into its best and fairest form is a challenge. You need an experienced divorce and family attorney to help guide you towards a beneficial compromise. Before you go any further with your divorce, get a free consultation with a divorce attorney.
Understanding Alimony/Spousal Maintenance
Spousal maintenance is a legal obligation on a person to provide financial support, or alimony payments, to their former spouse after separation or divorce. Sometimes, it can even be an obligation imposed before the finalization of the divorce. The duration of the maintenance depends on the jurisdiction. There can be a time limit on when alimony begins, such as 7 years. It may be temporary or permanent.
- Temporary Alimony versus Permanent Alimony
In permanent alimony, one of the parties in the divorce has a considerably reduced capacity to earn a living. The reduced capacity may be due to any combination of reasons. The spouse who makes more may have to pay alimony for the remainder of their life, or until a set of specific conditions are fulfilled. These conditions can be a set amount of money or a percentage of future earnings. In reality, this rarely extends for the entire lifetime. In many cases, “permanent” alimony does end. For example, the recipient may, later on, earn close to or even more money than the paying spouse. It would make no sense for the alimony to continue. The payor spouse may also lose the capacity to fulfill the legal obligation, either by losing their job or having their income significantly reduced. In any case, it would be unfair for the payor to continue paying. Another example would be if the recipient remarries or even co-habitats with someone else.
In temporary alimony, the goal is to help the other spouse reach a similar earning potential as the payor spouse within a set amount of time. You can think of it as rehabilitative maintenance. Temporary alimony is usually considered in families where one spouse has a degree and used to work, while the other spouse stayed at home to take care of the children. The stay-at-home parent often doesn’t have recent work experience or education credentials. After divorce or separation, a typical scenario is that one spouse is left homeless or struggling to find meaningful work. Through the financial support of the payer spouse, which usually comes as a percentage of income, the other spouse can work to finish schooling, complete job training, and gain income-earning capacity in general.
- Alimony shouldn’t burden the paying spouse
Alimony or spousal maintenance isn’t designed to drain the bank account of the payor spouse. However, it’s difficult to know whether alimony terms are truly fair. What does the situation call for? With an expert divorce attorney, you’ll get a good idea of what the situation calls for. The goal is to be comfortable with an arrangement that’s reasonable given the context. You can protect yourself from anyone taking advantage, and you can ensure that everyone benefits in one way or the other.
Factors Affecting Alimony/Spousal Maintenance
One of the biggest factors affecting the terms of alimony is the financial capacity of the payor spouse and of the recipient, as mentioned earlier. There are other significant aspects which would determine how big of a percentage of income is paid, and for how long. These include:
- Length of marriage
- The past contribution of one spouse towards the education or professional development of the other spouse
- The difference in income levels of the two parties
- Ability or capacity of one of the parties to work
Negotiating Alimony and Spousal Maintenance
At the end of the day, you want to go home with a reasonable arrangement that can also help you move on with your life. You need a qualified and experienced Michigan divorce attorney to help protect your rights. Here at The Clark Law Office, we have skilled attorneys and professionals who can secure the best possible spousal maintenance terms for you. Contact us today at 803 775 1234 for a free consultation!