Family Law Blog

What to Expect When It Comes To Spousal Maintenance

January 6, 2011

by Elizabeth Feldman

Spousal maintenance, or what use to be called “alimony,” is one of the hottest topics in family law these days.  Often one of the first concerns a spouse has when considering a divorce is whether they will receive or pay spousal maintenance and why; how much they will have to pay or receive, and for how long.  Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question, and there is no quick calculation.

When it comes to spousal maintenance there are very few hard and fast rules, but there are a few things to consider.  If you are considering (or going through) a divorce you may want to talk to your lawyer about are the following:

  • Do you and your spouse have a prenuptial agreement? If so, does it cover spousal maintenance? Having a prenuptial agreement may very well control whether spousal maintenance is even an option.
  • Is temporary spousal maintenance an issue while your divorce is pending, and what should it cover?
  • What effect does the length of your marriage have on spousal maintenance? The longer the duration of the marriage the more chance there is that spousal maintenance will be an issue—but there is no magic amount of time which will automatically entitle one to maintenance.
  • Is it possible for you (or your spouse) to work after the separation? This is one of the most important questions when considering maintenance. Whether one or both of the parties are working, what they could earn if they were working, whether they are working at their full potential or are underemployed, whether they need training or schooling in order to work, what they can earn at a job, what their plan is, and how it would affect all the parties, etc.  These are all issues that a court considers when granting or denying spousal maintenance.
  • Is there a calculation that factors in to your spousal maintenance?  If so, what role does it play?
  • If children are involved is their care factored in?
  • Does it make any difference if you or your spouse was a lousy partner?
  • What is the importance of you or your spouse’s expenses in calculating maintenance?
  • What happens if you or your spouse earns more or less after you get divorced, and how does it affect spousal maintenance?
  • Are there any tax consequences with maintenance? Generally the person paying receives a deduction and the person receiving must pay taxes on that income.

There may not be any simple answers, but considering the questions above can give you a much better idea of what to expect.

In considering the duration of a maintenance order, a court will generally consider how long the parties have been married, but also their ages and circumstances.  If a court makes an award of spousal maintenance, the award is usually modifiable and either party can return to court and ask for more or less money, or more or less time.  If, however, the parties reach an agreement on maintenance, they may agree that it is non-modifiable and cannot be changed.

Always remember that there are no set calculations for spousal maintenance.  This is an issue where a Court simply has to consider all of the factors and circumstances of each case individually before making a decision.

Why Do I Have To Pay Child Support Through The Clearinghouse?

February 11, 2010

By Sandra Burt

My clients often ask me why they have to pay through the clearinghouse. “Isn’t that an extra step between the money and the children?”  As you may or may not know, all child support (and sometimes spousal maintenance) payments go through the Department of Economic Security Clearinghouse.

While divorcing parties can choose to have direct pay, most opt for the payment to be made through the clearinghouse for record keeping purposes.  The clearinghouse will track all monies in and out for about $2.25 a month.  The clearinghouse is not necessarily a policing service; they will not they do not “contact” a party if their payment is late, but they do provide their records if a party has to take the paying parent back to court for nonpayment.

Some parties express as concern about a “delay factor” with the clearinghouse, but there is really no delay.  The clearinghouse pays the payee as soon as the money is received from the payor, usually by direct deposit into a bank account.  In fact, the clearinghouse disperses funds so fast that they can and do sometimes get stuck with bounced checks on which the payor would obviously have to make good.

There will certainly be concerns whenever you are dealing with something as sensitive as money, and especially when you feel as if you’re handing control of that money over to a third party; but the Department of Economic Security Clearinghouse is a trustworthy middleman, and in many cases necessary.  With no delay in the transfer of money and close to perfect recordkeeping, the clearing house can be an invaluable ally.