In a divorce case, maintenance (formerly known as alimony) can be ordered to help provide for the needs of either party if the court determines that either party cannot support themselves on their own. It is important to know that there are different categories of spousal support and that each one has its own features and stipulations.
This type of spousal support is paid until the death of the payor or the remarriage of the recipient. In many cases, this type of support is not actually permanent, as the name suggests. Generally, permanent agreements include clauses that terminate the financial support if:
- the parties resume marital relations
- the recipient remarries
- the recipient cohabits with another adult in a sexual relationship
- either party dies
- the stated expiration date is reached, if one was included in the agreement
Permanent maintenance may be awarded after long marriages (more than 10 years) or if the judge determines that the dependent spouse is not capable of supporting him- or herself.
Rehabilitative support, sometimes called “Bridge the Gap” support, is the most commonly awarded type of maintenance. It is generally awarded when the recipient is younger or able to eventually enter or return to the work force and become financially self-supporting. This type of maintenance agreement may include paying for education to enable the recipient to become self-supporting. In such cases, the recipient is responsible for actively pursuing education or training that will lead to employment while the payor is responsible for financially supporting the recipient until the point that the recipient has completed his or her training or studies and has been actively searching for work. Because of this, a set termination date is not generally issued; however, if the paying spouse believes that the recipient is not really trying to complete education or look for work, he or she may ask for a modification that includes a termination date for the support.
Temporary support payments are made for a specific period of time, typically one to two years. This type of maintenance agreement may be awarded when one person may need financial assistance to get re-established. In some cases, temporary maintenance can start at the time of separation, so there is no need to wait until the divorce settlement before pursuing this type of agreement. It is important to note that if both parties agree to temporary support, it should be agreed to in writing.
Lump Sum Maintenance
Typically, maintenance is issued in periodic payments. However, it is possible to pay spousal support in one lump sum payment. You may want to consult with your tax attorney and/or Certified Public Accountant regarding the tax consequences prior to signing a lump sum maintenance agreement.
Divorce is often one of the toughest experiences a person can go through, and issues that arise involving spousal maintenance are complicated. Maintenance is not an absolute right, and the party requesting maintenance must prove to the court that there is a reasonable need for their spouse to provide support. Hais, Hais & Goldberger, P.C. are dedicated exclusively to the practice of family law and can help you determine which type of support is appropriate for your situation in addition to helping you save time and avoid costly mistakes. If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about your maintenance options, please contact us, and we will be happy to provide professional guidance.