A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding if Alimony is a Factor in Your Divorce

Some people mistakenly believe that alimony (also referred to as spousal maintenance or spousal support) is a guaranteed element of their divorce settlement. This is not always the case. In the absence of a validly executed prenuptial or postnuptial agreement specifying the terms of an alimony arrangement, alimony determinations in Missouri are made on a case-by-case basis. The court is not required to enter an order for spousal support.

In Missouri, the court orders spousal support ONLY when it finds that the spouse seeking alimony lacks sufficient property to support their reasonable needs, AND is unable to support him or herself through employment. In some cases, the spouse requesting alimony may not be required to seek employment due to disability or the conditions surrounding a child custody agreement.

Factors That Determine Whether Alimony is Awarded

The court considers spousal support requests on a case-by-case basis, and there is no hard and fast rule that determines who gets spousal support and who does not. However, a judge is instructed to consider a number of factors when determining whether spousal support is awarded and in determining the amount of support that will be awarded.

  • Income: When determining alimony payments in Missouri, each spouse's respective income is considered. Additionally, the court considers the financial needs of the spouse requesting alimony as well as the ability of the paying spouse to make alimony payments. With these considerations, the judge is trying to ensure that the requesting spouse is not impoverished, but they also want to ensure that the paying spouse does not become impoverished by having to pay too much alimony.
  • Conduct during the Marriage: The conduct of each spouse during the marriage can also be a factor in determining alimony. When it comes to child support, the conduct of the spouses is not really a factor. However, in alimony, if a spouse has been unfaithful, abusive, or has abandoned their spouse, the court can consider these forms of marital misconduct. This does not mean that every cheating spouse WILL pay alimony, but spouses who behave badly during the course of the marriage are more likely to receive unfavorable spousal support decisions.
  • Child Custody Arrangements: Child custody and child support arrangements are considered. For example, if the requesting parent is awarded primary physical custody, they may have a need for spousal support in order to help them maintain a good environment for the children. Additionally, in situations involving child custody of special needs children, or in situations where child custody arrangements interfere with the ability of one spouse to seek employment, alimony determinations may be affected.
  • Property Distribution: Property distribution is a another factor considered when determining alimony. In addition to marital property, non-marital property may be considered in determining whether spousal support is appropriate. If the requesting spouse has sufficient property (both non-marital and marital) to support their reasonable needs, their request for alimony may be denied.
  • Duration of the Marriage: Finally, the duration of the marriage is often a factor considered when determining alimony amounts. In most cases, alimony is more likely to be awarded when the marriage has lasted longer than ten years. In some cases, alimony may be awarded to shorter marriages, and it may be denied for longer marriages, but the duration of the marriage is one of the many factors involved in determining spousal support.

Types of Alimony

If the court finds that spousal maintenance is appropriate in your case, there are several types of arrangements that may be selected, and alimony can be temporary or permanent.

  • Temporary alimony (also called pendente lite) is designed to “bridge the gap” between separation and a final decree of divorce. This type of support lasts only until the divorce is finalized, but a different type of spousal maintenance may be ordered in the final divorce.
  • Rehabilitative alimony is a usually temporary form of spousal support that is used to provide the receiver with the opportunity and ability to obtain training, education, and/or employment to support themselves.
  • Compensatory, or reimbursement, alimony is ordered to compensate the receiving spouse for expenses incurred by the paying spouse during the marriage. For example, if a wife helped support her husband through medical school to help further his career, she may be entitled to compensatory alimony.
  • Permanent alimony usually continues throughout the life of the paying spouse, but it may be terminated upon the remarriage or death of the spouse receiving payments.

Additionally, a spousal maintenance order may be modifiable or nonmodifiable. If the award is modifiable, either spouse may petition for an alimony modification based on a substantial, material, and continuing change of circumstances. In most (but not all) cases, permanent alimony orders are modifiable and temporary alimony may be either modifiable or nonmodifiable.

Learn More About Alimony and Spousal Support in Missouri

If you would like to learn more about how alimony may come into play in your divorce, contact the divorce lawyers at Kallen Law Firm in St. Louis today for a free review and consultation.