Alimony, also known as maintenance, refers to one spouse paying a monthly stipend to his or her spouse during or after a divorce or legal separation. Only married couples are eligible for spousal support. This does not apply to parentage cases for child custody; in those scenarios, support is given to the child and that is referred to as child support. In divorce cases that also involve children, there will also likely be a provision for child support, which is separate from alimony.
When determining whether spousal maintenance should be awarded many things are taken into consideration:
- Was a prenuptial agreement established?
- How long was the couple married?
- Are both parties working? If so, do they both work full time? How long has each been at his/her respective positions?
- What are the parties’ respective incomes?
The goal of spousal maintenance is to make sure both parties are able to bounce back financially. For example, a stay at home parent who has been out of the work force for many years, may not be in a position to earn an income similar to his or her spouse. In situations like this, a judge may be inclined to award spousal support. It is not fair to that individual to be thrown right back into the world with no resources. One needs time to find a job, go back to school, and save his or her own money. In the meantime, spousal support assists in paying the mortgage, living expenses, groceries or whatever might be necessary to thrive.
Spousal maintenance is not meant to be a long-term obligation or a “free ride.” The judge will set the boundaries and if necessary revisit it at a later date if an extension should occur. The goal is to level the playing field so both parties share equally in the recovery process.