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Spousal maintenance is not quite a thing of the past

If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, you may be wondering if you will have to pay spousal maintenance, better known as alimony. Alimony has been the source of jokes and arguments for generations, and some say it is one of the biggest sources of contention when a marriage ends.

In the past, husbands traditionally paid spousal support to their ex-wives because most women did not work outside the home. These days, however, many women in Kentucky contribute equally to the family finances and are able to support themselves when their marriages end, eliminating the need for permanent spousal support.

How much?

Nevertheless, you may be in a situation where your spouse will need at least some temporary maintenance. The court usually determines the net income of each spouse and decides if that income, plus whatever assets you each retain from property division, is enough to sustain you as closely as possible to the standard of living you enjoyed in your marriage.

If the calculations leave your spouse with a deficit, the court may order you to pay alimony. Of course, the court will also consider whether your spouse has the ability to earn more than he or she is making. In other words, your spouse cannot take a lower paying job just so you will have to pay more spousal support.

How long?

Rarely do courts order a person to pay alimony for the rest of his or her life. Your ex-spouse may receive maintenance for a few months or years until he or she becomes self-sufficient. However, there are a number of reasons why a judge might extend alimony payments, including:

  • Your spouse has custody of children younger than school age or children with conditions that require them to be home, such as special needs.
  • Your spouse has no marketable skills that would enable him or her to find work.
  • Your spouse has been willing but unable to find employment that would sustain him or her.
  • Your spouse worked for a certain length of time to support you while you earned a degree or advanced in your career (The courts may grant your spouse alimony for an equal length of time.)
  • You and your spouse were married for many years.
  • There was infidelity or other misconduct during the marriage.

Of course, there are also reasons why a judge may shorten the length of time you are required to pay spousal maintenance. For example, if you experience an involuntary financial setback or your spouse achieves the ability to sustain him or herself, you may petition the court to end or modify your maintenance obligations.

What next?

The terms of alimony can be complex and contain many contingencies. Even if you and your spouse come to an agreement about payments, you may wish to consult an attorney.

Your lawyer will be able to advise you about tax implications and explain how the nuances of the law affect your situation. Most importantly, you will have an advocate who will ensure that your divorce includes a fair alimony settlement.

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