Alimony in Missouri can be an agreement between soon-to-be ex-spouses or a court-ordered after a divorce. As it is known in Missouri, maintenance is a standard part of divorce that couples who are ending their marital relationship may face.

In this article, we look at eligibility for alimony, how it is determined, paid, and terminated, and recent developments regarding alimony laws.

What Is Alimony?

Alimony or maintenance in Missouri is a court-ordered provision of financial support that one spouse (often the higher-earning spouse) may be required to pay the other spouse. The duration and amount of spousal support required vary from case to case. It is up to the presiding judge to determine whether or not spousal support should be granted.

While judges have wide discretion in making a decision on alimony, there are various factors that influence their decision. First, the judge must determine whether the person requesting spousal support is eligible for it. If the requesting spouse is eligible, the judge will go ahead and decide the amount and duration of alimony.

Eligibility for Missouri Spousal Support

According to Missouri Revised Statutes 452.335, 452.075, 452.370, the following circumstances will be considered to determine whether you are eligible for alimony in divorce proceedings:

  • The requesting spouse doesn’t have sufficient property, including marital property allocated to them after property division, to provide for their reasonable needs
  • The requesting spouse is unable to support themselves through suitable employment
  • The spouse requesting alimony is the custodial parent of a child whose condition doesn’t allow for the parent to seek employment outside of their home

Determination of Maintenance in Missouri

If the spouse seeking maintenance is eligible to receive support, the amount and duration of alimony to be awarded is determined by the following factors:

  • The financial resources of the requesting spouse, including the proceeds of marital property division during the divorce
  • The time required for the requesting spouse to acquire sufficient education or job training in order to reenter the workforce
  • The earning capacity of each spouse
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The financial obligations and assets, including the separate property of each spouse
  • The marital standard of living of the spouses
  • The conduct of the spouses during the marriage and whether one spouse was at-fault for the divorce
  • The age and the emotional and physical health of both spouses
  • The ability of the supporting spouse to meet their financial needs while making alimony payments to the requesting spouse
  • Any other factor the court deems relevant

If either spouse is guilty of marital misconduct, like cheating, the judge might consider it when giving a spousal support award. However, keep in mind that the judge won’t deny alimony to a spouse who needs financial support solely for their marital misconduct.

Similarly, the judge won’t award punitive alimony to the higher-earning spouse due to the marital misconduct of the other spouse. It’s also important to remember that the spouses’ marital conduct is only one of the many factors considered when determining whether or not to award alimony. The court must consider all the relevant factors in a balanced manner before making a decision on alimony.

Once these factors are taken into account by the judge, they will decide the amount and duration of Missouri spousal maintenance to award. Further, the judge will determine whether the alimony order can be modified in the future.

Types of Spousal Support Missouri Courts May Award

Courts in Missouri may order the higher-earning spouse to pay temporary, periodic, or permanent alimony. Sometimes, spouses may be ordered to pay a combination of any of these types of spousal support. The decision on the type of alimony to be awarded depends on, among many factors, the financial need of the requesting spouse.

– Temporary Alimony

Missouri courts reserve temporary spousal support for cases where the requesting spouse needs financial assistance during the pendency of a divorce. Temporary alimony is awarded to help the requesting spouse meet their basic expenses while waiting for the divorce to be finalized. This may be necessary since most spouses will start living apart and separately once they file for divorce.

Temporary alimony terminates when the judge issues the final divorce decree. It is important to note that an award for temporary alimony isn’t a guarantee of periodic or permanent support.

– Periodic Alimony

It is also known as rehabilitative alimony. Periodic alimony, often referred to as rehabilitative alimony, is usually short-term spousal support. The obligor pays the supported spouse rehabilitative alimony on an ongoing basis, either bi-weekly, monthly, or bi-annually as ordered by the judge.

This type of alimony is meant to support the requesting spouse while acquiring the education or job skills necessary to find employment.

While courts expect spouses to be financially independent after ending their marriage, this isn’t always the case. Judges understand that one spouse may have been out of employment for several years. As such, they need time and financial resources to gain the necessary education and skills to get an appropriate job.

Periodic spousal support may also be ordered to help the requesting spouse transition to a single household lifestyle. According to Missouri alimony laws, rehabilitative spousal support may also be awarded as a way for the requesting spouse to meet financial obligations while the sale of the marital house is pending.

– Permanent Alimony

Permanent support, also known as long-term alimony, may be available in some divorce cases, but rare. Missouri judges reserve permanent alimony for long-term marriages, where the requesting spouse can’t attain financial independence.

Permanent spousal support may be appropriate if the spouse seeking alimony can’t become self-supporting due to a physical or mental disability, advanced age, or long-term absence from employment.

Paying Alimony in Missouri

In most cases, judges will order that divorce maintenance payments be paid periodically, usually monthly, through an income withholding order that comes with the award. With income withholding orders, the obligor’s employer automatically withholds the spousal maintenance from the employee’s paycheck and remits it directly to the supported spouse.

Sometimes, lump-sum payment of alimony is the appropriate option. However, lump-sum alimony payments are rare. After the divorce, most supporting spouses lack the cash or assets to pay off the entire maintenance amount. If the supporting spouse has the financial capacity, the court may allow it.

Lump-sum payments could benefit the supporting spouse as they eliminate the need to make ongoing payments. Their obligation to pay alimony ends once they make the lump-sum payment in full. What’s more, lump-sum payments mean that the supported spouse has no chance of requesting an upward adjustment of the alimony amount or duration.

Delayed Alimony Payments

Sometimes, you might have trouble getting your ex-spouse to pay spousal support as ordered by the court. As such, you can seek the intervention of the court by filing a motion to enforce the alimony judgment. After filing the motion, the court will schedule a hearing, and your ex-spouse is required to attend.

If alimony has not been paid in full at the time of the court hearing, the judge can make a finding of contempt. This means that your ex-spouse has disobeyed a court order.

If your ex-spouse is found to be in contempt, there could be serious repercussions. The supporting spouse could have their license suspended, liens placed on their bank accounts, wages, and assets, tax refund intercepted, or a possible jail term.

Potential Changes to Missouri Alimony Laws

Recently, there have been efforts by lawmakers to effect Missouri alimony reform. Specifically, Missouri lawmakers find a need to change alimony laws to ensure that time limits on support payments are specified. Essentially, these changes could help limit the amount of spousal support the requesting spouse could get after divorce.

A Missouri lawmaker introduced House Bill (HB) 194, which would modify the criteria of granting spousal maintenance. According to the bill, the court will have to specify whether the spousal support is bridge-the-gap, rehabilitative, or durational. The criteria for determining durational spousal support would be the length of the marriage.

Considering this factor, marriages would be categorized as follows:

  • Short-term marriage, which lasts less than seven years
  • Moderate-term marriage, which lasts more than seven years but less than 17 years
  • Long-term marriage, which lasts 17 years or more

Further, there would be a limit on marital support, based on the type of support and length of the marriage. Spouses whose marriage has been short-term and in need of financial support would be awarded bridge-the-gap maintenance. This would help the dependent spouses meet their reasonable expenses as they transition to being single.

Rehabilitative maintenance would be awarded to spouses in short-term or moderate-term marriages. It would help them seek the appropriate education or skills to find employment and become self-supporting.

Durational maintenance would be awarded to dependent spouses in moderate-term or long-term marriages. This type of maintenance would help maintain the living standards of such spouses as established during their marriage.

The standards for durational maintenance would provide for the maximum duration of alimony as follows:

  • Maximum maintenance period of three years for marriages that lasted less than seven years
  • Maximum maintenance period of five years for marriages that lasted more than seven years but less than 10
  • Maximum maintenance period of seven years for marriages that lasted more than ten years but less than 17
  • Maximum maintenance period of 10 years for marriages that lasted more than 17 years but less than 25
  • Maximum maintenance period of 15 years for marriages that lasted more than 25 years

With the new bill, modification or termination of any type of maintenance would be possible, provided it can be proven that the supported spouse has entered into a “mutually supportive relationship” with another person.

Conclusion

In this article, we’ve discussed several things regarding spousal maintenance.

So, what’s the takeaway?

  • Maintenance may be ordered if a spouse doesn’t have the money or property to provide for their reasonable needs
  •  In Missouri, dependent spouses may be awarded temporary, periodic, and permanent maintenance
  • Payment of maintenance can be in the form of periodic or lump-sum payments
  • Lawmakers in Missouri are seeking to make changes to alimony laws by specifying the time limits for maintenance

If you want to end your marital ties with your spouse in Missouri, you must understand the current maintenance laws. The divorce process would be less strenuous if you agree on alimony issues rather than seek it out through litigation.

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