Spousal Support (Alimony) Guidelines
How is the Amount Determined?
Spousal support or maintenance (previously known as alimony) is typically ordered when one spouse is unable to provide for his/her reasonable needs, while the other spouse has the financial ability to care not only for himself/herself but his/her spouse as well.
Unlike child support, where the state has issued specific guidelines for determining the amount of support that is payable, there are no such quantified benchmarks to guide whether spousal support is appropriate or, if so, the amount to be paid.
Instead, Missouri law leaves it at the court’s (judge’s) discretion to determine if spousal maintenance is to be paid as well as the amount to be paid and for what period of time.
To do this, the court/judge must first conclude…
- That the spouse seeking support lacks sufficient property, including any marital property allocated to that spouse, to provide for his/her reasonable needs. And…
- The judge must also find that the spouse is unable to support himself/herself through “appropriate” employment or is the custodian of child where, because of the circumstances or condition of the child, it would not be appropriate for that custodian to be required to seek employment outside the home.
If the judge so concludes, then he/she looks to a number of factors laid out in the law to determine the amount and duration of spousal maintenance. That is, to set the amount of the monthly payment and to determine if there will be a date at which the support obligation will cease. If no termination date is set, support continues until either the payer or recipient dies, or until the recipient remarries.
Three factors that most influence the amount and duration are:
- The financial resources of the recipient relative to that person’s reasonable needs.
- The ability of the other spouse to pay support while also meeting their own needs.
- The length of the marriage. Marriages of longer duration are more favorable to the award of maintenance than shorter ones.
In addition, several other factors can enter into the judge’s calculation, such as…
- The time that may be needed by the recipient to acquire the education or training he/she needs to obtain “appropriate” employment.
- The comparative earning capacity of each spouse
- The standard of living established during the marriage can influence the determination what the recipient’s reasonable needs are.
- The age and the physical and emotional condition of the person seeking support
- The conduct of the parties during the marriage
- Any other factor that the judge finds to be relevant