Spousal maintenance is sometimes awarded in a divorce case as a monthly payment from one ex-spouse to the other. The court may order maintenance, or spouses may agree to certain terms for spousal maintenance in a separation agreement. The purpose of maintenance is to ensure that each spouse retains a similar standard of living after the divorce. It can also give a lower-earning spouse time to become self-sustaining.
However, these maintenance payments are not permanent, and they are subject to modification if circumstances change. Many individuals may wonder if they still have to give their ex-spouse maintenance payments if the ex-spouse is now living with a new partner.
How Long Does Spousal Maintenance Last?
The duration of spousal maintenance varies based on the unique divorce and circumstances. The largest factor when determining the length of maintenance is the length of the marriage. However, there are reasons that payments may terminate sooner, including the death of either party or the remarriage of the receiving spouse. In some cases, cohabitation may even be a reason to modify or terminate payments.
Remarriage and Spousal Maintenance
Spouses who are responsible for maintenance payments cannot request a modification or termination when they remarry. The law assumes that, by choosing to get married, you understand the changes to your financial obligations, so it does not alter your financial responsibility to your ex-spouse.
If the spouse who is receiving spousal maintenance remarries, the maintenance payments automatically terminate. This only does not occur if a separation agreement clearly states that maintenance continues after remarriage.
Cohabitation and Spousal Maintenance
Cohabitation occurs when individuals live together, usually while in a relationship, but are not married. Unlike remarriage, cohabitation does not lead to automatic termination of spousal maintenance in Missouri. A modification attorney can review your circumstances to determine if it is in your interests to file a request to modify maintenance.
The court may terminate spousal maintenance if it determines that the cohabitation is a substitute for marriage. Actions that may demonstrate that a cohabiting couple is acting similarly to marriage may include:
- Commingled assets
- Dual responsibility for bills and other costs
- Cohabitation for a significant period of time
- Listed as beneficiaries on each other’s wills and trusts
- Shared bank accounts
- Listed as beneficiaries on life insurance policies
If the court determines that your ex-spouse and a new partner are acting as a married couple, the court may terminate your spousal support payments.
Modification of Spousal Maintenance
If you or your ex-spouse has a significant and continued change in circumstances, this may be a reason to modify a court order. For spousal maintenance payments, this change in circumstances is typically financially related. If you and your spouse agreed on maintenance payments, you may have also included specific circumstances that would trigger the modification of payments.
Although modification does not always result in termination, it may lower maintenance payments. Depending on the change, however, it could also increase maintenance payments. In addition to your ex-spouse’s cohabitation or remarriage, a significant change in circumstances may include:
- The receiving spouse has had an increase or decrease in income.
- The paying spouse has had a change in employment or income.
- Either spouse has additional financial needs.
- Either spouse has gained additional assets.
- The receiving spouse is self-supporting.
An ex-spouse cohabitating with a new partner may be a reason to modify payments, even if it is not a reason to terminate them. An attorney can help you determine the legal options available to you.
There are some cases in Missouri where spousal maintenance is non-modifiable. You cannot request the court to modify maintenance in that case, and it will terminate based on factors outlined by the separation agreement, upon death, or remarriage.
Q: What Disqualifies You From Alimony in Missouri?
A: Alimony is not automatic in Missouri, and it is only awarded if one spouse needs financial assistance and the other spouse can provide that assistance. In some cases, a lower-earning spouse is not awarded alimony due to adultery or other marital misconduct, but this is not a guarantee. Alimony can be modified if the receiving spouse remarries or if the financial needs of either party change.
Q: Is Missouri a No-Alimony State?
A: No, Missouri is not a no-alimony state. The types of spousal maintenance are:
- Temporary maintenance. This is awarded during divorce proceedings if one spouse has significant financial needs.
- Short-term maintenance. This is the most common form of alimony. It is awarded after the finalization of divorce to enable a spouse to become self-supporting in time.
- Permanent maintenance. This form of alimony is provided after the divorce is finalized, and it is rare. Generally, it is awarded when spouses have had a significant lasting marriage, and one spouse has unfavorable employment possibilities due to their medical needs, health, or age. These payments are not always permanent but instead are not given a specific end date.
Q: Does Alimony Stop If You Get Remarried in Missouri?
A: Alimony does not prevent you from getting married, but getting remarried may end alimony payments. If you are the spouse paying spousal maintenance to your ex-spouse, remarriage does not impact your support payments. However, if you are the spouse receiving maintenance, remarriage may be a reason for the court to terminate these payments. There are some unique cases where alimony is not terminated, such as specific terms in the separation agreement that continue alimony after remarriage.
Q: How Is Alimony Determined in Missouri?
A: Whether alimony is awarded, and its amount and duration, is based on several factors in Missouri, including:
- The length of the marriage
- The age, health, and emotional condition of the spouse requesting alimony
- What the established standard of living was during the marriage
- The conduct of both spouses during the marriage
- The financial stability and income of each spouse
- The earning capacity of each spouse
- What marital property each spouse was awarded during the division
- The time it takes for the spouse requesting alimony to be self-sufficient, either through further education or job training
- Each spouse’s obligations
- The ability of the other spouse to pay alimony
Contact Stange Law Firm
If you are expecting to pay maintenance after divorce proceedings, or are looking to modify them following a significant change, you need an experienced attorney to represent you. An attorney well-versed in divorce and spousal maintenance law can create a strategy to limit your financial responsibility or advocate for why modification is appropriate. Contact Stange Law Firm today.