A judge can make one spouse pay the other spouse money on an ongoing basis after a divorce. This is called "maintenance." It used to be called "spousal support" or "alimony."
The purpose of maintenance is to help the ex-spouse support themselves. However, the judge is not required to order maintenance. People who are able to work are generally expected to find a job and support themselves.
The laws for maintenance are the same for men and women.
How does a judge decide whether to order maintenance?
The judge will consider the following things when deciding on maintenance:
- Income and property
- Earning potential, now and in the future
- Time spent doing household duties
- Time and money needed to get a job, or the training and education to get a job
- Lifestyle during the marriage
- Length of marriage
- Physical and emotional conditions
- Any agreements between the spouses
The judge will not make their decision based on how well either spouse has behaved during the marriage.
How much maintenance does a spouse get?
Judges usually use this formula to decide how much maintenance to give to a spouse:
- Multiply the payer’s gross yearly income by 0.3.
- Multiply the payee’s gross yearly income by 0.2.
- Subtract 2) from 1).
However, there is a limit on the amount of maintenance the payee can get. Here is how the limit works:
- Add the amount of maintenance from above to the payee's gross yearly income. Write this number down.
- Now add both spouse's income together, and multiply by 0.4. Write this number down.
If 1) is higher than 2), subtract the payee's gross yearly income from 2). This is the amount of annual maintenance they will receive.
Here is an example of how the formula works. Assume payer’s gross yearly income is $50,000, and payee’s gross yearly income is $25,000. Now follow the first three steps:
- $50,000 (payer's income) X 0.3 = $15,000
- $25,000 (payee's income) X 0.2 = $5,000
- $15,000 (from step 1) - $5,000 (from step 2) = $10,000
Now we follow the second two steps to check to see if this amount will be limited:
- $10,000 (the amount of maintenance) + $25,000 (payee's income) = $35,000
- $50,000 (payer's income) + $25,000 (payee's income) = $75,000. $75,000 X 0.4 = $30,000
Since 1) is higher than 2), we have to subtract: $30,000 (from 2) - $25,000 (payer's income) = $5,000. So the judge will order the payer to pay the payee $5,000 per year.
How long does maintenance last?
The length of maintenance depends on the length of the marriage. Use the chart below to find out how long your maintenance will probably last:
|Length of marriage (in years)||Length of maintenance|
|Less than 5||Length of marriage X 0.20|
|5-6||Length of marriage X 0.24|
|6-7||Length of marriage X 0.28|
|7-8||Length of marriage X 0.32|
|8-9||Length of marriage X 0.36|
|9-10||Length of marriage X 0.40|
|10-11||Length of marriage X 0.44|
|11-12||Length of marriage X 0.48|
|12-13||Length of marriage X 0.52|
|13-14||Length of marriage X 0.56|
|14-15||Length of marriage X 0.60|
|15-16||Length of marriage X 0.64|
|16-17||Length of marriage X 0.68|
|17-18||Length of marriage X 0.72|
|18-19||Length of marriage X 0.76|
|19-20||Length of marriage X 0.80|
|20+||Length of marriage or indefinitely|
Divorce cases can go on for a long time. A spouse can get maintanence while the case goes on. This is called temporary maintenance.
The temporary maintenance could also include:
Updated: February 2018