Sometimes Spousal Maintenance Is Permanent

Permanent spousal maintenance is commonly granted when one spouse isn’t likely to become self-supporting. The court arrives at this verdict by considering the lifestyle that the couple maintained during the marriage. This frequently, but not always, applies to a long-term marriage of at least 20 years when one party is capable of offering financial support, while the other party is incapable of self-support.

Permanent Spousal Maintenance vs. Temporary Spousal Maintenance

A high-earning spouse provides permanent spousal maintenance to the low-earning spouse for an unspecified period. The court issues a permanent maintenance order, which spells out the details about the payments. It’s important for a couple filing for divorce to understand that the permanent maintenance order may include provisions that permit future modifications if there is doubt whether a permanent solution is required.

Permanent spousal maintenance ends once a remarriage happens, the paying spouse or recipient dies, or a court issues a termination order. It may also change if the spouse ordered to pay maintenance (obligator) opts to take early retirement.

For temporary spousal maintenance, the spouse with the higher earnings pays the spouse with the lower earnings a specific amount until the divorce process culminates. Once the divorce process ends, the court will dismiss temporary spousal maintenance and may award another form of spousal maintenance, depending on the legal grounds. Temporary spousal maintenance is usually granted to spouses with short marriages.

Factors the Court Evaluates Before Awarding a Permanent Spousal Maintenance

There are several factors that the court assesses before settling on permanent spousal maintenance. They include:

Initial Threshold for Permanent Spousal Maintenance

While maintenance seems automatic when there is a major difference in income between the divorcing spouses, the court examines five crucial factual findings before deciding whether maintenance is appropriate.

  • The gross income of each spouse
  • The value of community property divided to each spouse
  • Each spouses’ financial resources, ranging from actual to possible earnings from a community or separate property
  • Justifiable financial need as demonstrated during the marriage
  • Whether the spousal maintenance will be subjected to either federal income or taxable income tax

Advisory Maintenance Guidelines

The court must look at the advisory guidelines. It must seek to understand what the advisory guidelines say about the amount and duration of the permanent spousal maintenance before moving to the next stage.

Assessing Statutory Factors

The court must also assess statutory factors, such as the financial resources of both the party applying for maintenance and the party to pay for it. Other factors the court considers include the living standard during the marriage, marital property distribution, marriage duration, earnings, employment, and employability of both parties.

The Incapability of Self Support

The court shall grant permanent spousal maintenance only if it discovers that the party pursuing maintenance doesn’t have enough property, including community property allocated to him or her, to cater to his or her needs. The applicant must also be incapable of supporting himself or herself through employment or have a workplace injury that prevents him or her from returning to work or engaging in any other income-generating activity for a considerable amount of time.