Maintenance, also known as alimony or spousal support, is a sum of money given from one partner to the other to provide for the other partner’s support during or after the divorce. When there is a significant difference in the income and earning potential of the spouses, or if one spouse has been out of the workplace for a period of time, the spouse who earns the higher income may be required to contribute to the other spouse’s expenses. The length of the marriage is also a consideration when determining spousal support; longer marriages are more likely to result in maintenance payments between partners.
The first step in considering whether maintenance or spousal support is appropriate is to determine the needs of each partner and whether there were any prenuptial agreements. This is done by calculating the living expenses and income for each partner after the parties move into two separate households. Typically, large income disparities are more likely to produce awards of maintenance. Divorcing partners must also consider the tax consequences of paying and receiving spousal support. For example, a high-income earner may choose to take advantage of certain tax deductions available to the payor spouse, thereby easing the financial strain of making maintenance payments.
Determining an appropriate maintenance award can be confusing. If maintenance is not awarded, it is typically waived forever, thereby preventing the waiving party from ever receiving maintenance from his or her former spouse. Accordingly, it is important to consult with a divorce attorney about any and all maintenance issues.