Many people wrongfully attach a negative connotation to alimony. Spousal support, as it's called in Maine, is an important part of any divorce proceeding. This type of support is designed to ensure that a spouse is capable of continuing to provide for her or himself during and after the dissolution of the marriage. High profile divorce cases, where one spouse of a wealthy couple is awarded millions of dollars in alimony encourage the stigma often associated with spousal support. Imagine you've been a stay-at-home mom for the last 18 years. You've just been told by your husband that he wants a divorce. He's the primary breadwinner; you've never been in the work force. How will you pay for your necessities?
Spousal Support Types
There are different types of spousal support in accordance with Maine law, and each takes into account different considerations. For example, if one spouse possesses greater income-earning potential than the other spouse does, the court may issue a "general" spousal support award so that the spouse with lesser-income earning potential can maintain her or his standard of living.
"Transitional" spousal support is designed to help a spouse through the transition of divorce into singlehood. This alimony is awarded short-term, and ensures that the spouse receiving it is able to maintain her or his standard of living while she or he attempts to re-enter the work force or address any other short-term financial losses resulting from the divorce.
"Reimbursement" spousal support requires an equitable obligation of one spouse to the other that must be resolved upon dissolution of the marriage and related finances. Examples of such an obligation include an economic misconduct that has damaged the other spouse or substantial financial support during the marriage by one spouse that led to the other spouse's success.
Should the court pend an alimony award for future consideration; "nominal" spousal support may be awarded until the final determination is made. And, finally, an award of "interim" spousal support might be necessary for one spouse to maintain her or his standard of living throughout the separation and divorce proceedings only.
Qualifications for Spousal Support
Maine courts will not simply order spousal support. A person petitioning for said support must meet certain qualifications before the court will honor the petition and issue the monthly financial award. Certain factors the court takes into consideration include:
- how long the couple was married and the age, health and education of each spouse;
- the financial stability of each spouse, including employment history, income history, and employment and income-earning potential;
- the contributions to the marriage of each spouse both in the home and in the educative and workplace, as well as the standard of living established;
- whether each spouse has health insurance benefits and retirement savings;
- whether either spouse has misled the other spouse economically and caused financial harm by said misconduct;
- the tax consequences to both spouses over the division of the marital property alongside any spousal support award.
Calculating Spousal Support
Once it is determined that one party is eligible for spousal support, the courts use the qualification standards alongside other factors to calculate the amount and duration of alimony. Individual circumstances dictate whether spousal support is awarded, as every person's situation and income-earning ability is different. How long the payments must be made is calculated by the duration of the marriage. For example:
- If you were married to your spouse for ten years or less, Maine has a presumption of no spousal support award.
- If you were married to your spouse from 10 to 40 years and you qualify for spousal support, your alimony payments will last for half the length of your marriage. In other words, if you were married for 20 years, you'll receive alimony for 10 years (20 divided by two equals 10).
- If you were married for 40 years or longer and you qualify for alimony, you will receive spousal support up to a maximum of 20 years.
- Spousal support payments will of course stop if you remarry, or when you or your ex-spouse passes away.
Spousal support is one of the most complex parts of divorce, and it should be awarded when needed and not awarded when not needed. Going through a divorce is difficult enough on its own, and you shouldn't have to bear additional financial burden resulting from the dissolution of your marriage. Issues surrounding spousal support require extensive knowledge of Maine's family law. The Law Office of William T. Bly possesses said knowledge and is ready to guide you through your divorce settlement.