The term “Spousal Maintenance” (previously referred to as Alimony) refers to financial support provided by one spouse to the other spouse (e.g. monthly payment or sometimes a lump sum payment) to enable him/her to achieve self-support. Unlike child support, there is no particular formula or calculator to determine spousal maintenance. Therefore, it is extremely important to obtain good legal advice before either waiving spousal maintenance or agreeing to an amount or duration of spousal maintenance.
Generally, if there is a long-term marriage, and one party has the ability to pay and the other party has the need for support, the Court can award either temporary or permanent spousal maintenance (the award depends greatly upon the length of marriage and other applicable statutory factors). The key components in any spousal maintenance award are the amount and duration of spousal maintenance.
Temporary spousal maintenance or Rehabilitative maintenance is awarded for a specific amount of time in order to rehabilitate the education/job training/skills of the receiving party so that the party who is not able to support himself or herself, can attempt to do so.
Permanent spousal maintenance is sometimes awarded in cases for an indefinite amount of time where there is a long-term marriage (e.g. fifteen (15) years and above) and where one party is not capable of self-support based upon what he/she earned during the marriage. It is also based upon the fact that the other party is financially able to provide support to the requesting spouse and at the same time, able to support himself/herself.
Spousal maintenance can also be “reserved” meaning that it can be requested at a later time, provided that one party brings a proper motion before the Court.
A party can also agree to waive spousal maintenance completely; however, if a party agrees to waive maintenance completely, they will not be able to go back to Court and request maintenance at a later time even if there is a substantial change in circumstances. A waiver of spousal maintenance should only be done after obtaining legal advice.
It is important to note that an award of spousal maintenance is a taxable event. The person paying spousal maintenance can deduct spousal maintenance for tax purposes and the person receiving spousal maintenance must pay taxes (calculated by adding the spousal maintenance award in addition to his or her regular income). Therefore, in analyzing any spousal maintenance claim, tax consequences must be taken into account.
Depending upon the circumstances of a particular case, it may be a good idea to waive a monthly spousal maintenance award in exchange for a disproportionate, favorable award of property. If you are a candidate for receiving spousal maintenance or may have to pay spousal maintenance, you should consult an attorney for specific advice relative to your situation.
Read spousal maintenance statute: link