Alimony is money paid from one divorcing spouse to another on a predetermined schedule for a predetermined amount of time. Alimony is commonly awarded temporarily in St. Louis, MO divorce cases, but a judge may decide to award permanent alimony in rare situations.
Missouri is an equitable distribution state when it comes to divorce. Most Missouri judges tend to avoid long-term or permanent support arrangements if possible. It may be possible to avoid paying alimony in your divorce if you are willing to part with certain marital assets. It is also possible to negotiate for certain assets or properties if you would otherwise receive alimony, as a spouse liable for alimony would likely prefer to bargain that responsibility away as quickly as possible.
If you are divorcing in St. Louis in the near future and have concerns about alimony as either a payer or a recipient, call our firm. We can explain how the court determines alimony eligibility and the factors that a judge will consider when awarding alimony.
The purpose of alimony is to help a divorced spouse manage their everyday expenses and maintain a similar quality of life after their divorce. Alimony aims to provide the financial support the recipient needs to eventually become self-sufficient. While a divorcing couple can negotiate their own alimony terms, this is rare. It can be difficult to negotiate with an ex-partner, especially when it comes to finances. Typically, the final decision will rest in the hands of a St. Louis, MO family court judge. Some of the factors a judge will consider when determining an alimony arrangement include:
- The income levels of the divorcing spouses.
- The lifestyle of the spouses as a married couple.
- The medical needs of each spouse.
- Contributions the spouses made toward one another’s professional careers.
- Value of household services provided by each spouse.
- The nature of the divorce and whether fault played any role in the ending of the marriage.
- The tax implications of alimony, both for the payer and the recipient
Every divorce case is different. When alimony is a litigated issue, it ultimately falls to the judge to award alimony fairly and reasonably. Most alimony arrangements exist temporarily, but some divorcing spouses may qualify for permanent alimony or spousal support.
Qualifying for Permanent Alimony
There are few situations in which a divorcing spouse may qualify for permanent alimony. First, if the spouse is too old to realistically rejoin the workforce and earn their own living, permanent alimony may come into play if the other spouse has the means to support them. Second, a divorcing spouse who is unable to support themselves due to illness or disability may also qualify for spousal support. A divorcing parent may also qualify for permanent alimony if they remain the custodial parent for a child with a serious disability who requires constant care and supervision.
The central factor in any permanent alimony consideration is the recipient’s reasonable ability to improve their individual financial situation over time. If a judge has cause to believe that is not possible in a particular case, the spouse who is unable to manage on their own will likely receive some kind of support.
Permanent alimony is rarely awarded in Missouri divorces and typically only comes into play when a divorcing spouse cannot feasibly support themselves without financial assistance from the other spouse. Judges in St. Louis may award alimony on a short-term basis, permanently, or on an indefinite basis so long as the recipient does not terminate the agreement through their own actions.
In any alimony arrangement, the recipient must pay very close attention to the terminating actions listed in the arrangement. These actions will terminate the recipient’s eligibility for spousal support payments. These terminating actions generally include remarrying, cohabitating with a new partner, or earning more than a certain income level. If a recipient completes a terminating action, even unknowingly, the paying spouse will no longer need to make alimony payments.
Whenever an alimony agreement is drafted, it will include provisions for terminating actions, including specific definitions of terminating actions. For example, the agreement may stipulate that alimony payments will follow a different schedule in a different amount after a certain amount of time or after the recipient completes certain actions. It’s not uncommon for judges to award alimony until the recipient can successfully complete professional training and educational courses required to advance their professional careers to the point of self-sufficiency.
It’s also possible to modify an alimony arrangement that has already been decreed. A post-judgment motion allows one to alter an existing divorce arrangement, including an alimony agreement. A St. Louis divorce attorney can help the spouse who is making alimony payments file a post-judgment motion if they experience a change in income or other life event that alters their ability to pay alimony. It is also possible to file a post-judgment motion to terminate alimony when the payer has evidence that the recipient engaged in a terminating action.
A post-judgment motion is a relatively straightforward process. With the help of their attorney, the party filing the motion will submit the necessary paperwork that includes their reasoning for the motion. The court will set a hearing date, and a judge will hear each side of the motion at the hearing. If granted, a post-judgment motion can significantly alter or nullify an alimony agreement.
The Importance of Legal Counsel
Alimony can be a very complicated issue in a divorce. The payer wants to ensure they are only paying as much as is legally necessary. Obviously, the recipient has an interest in maximizing the amount of alimony they receive. On either side of the negotiating table, experienced legal representation is crucial for a positive outcome. Your St. Louis, MO divorce attorney can help you understand what to expect when it comes to alimony in your divorce. Your attorney will also help you interpret the equitable distribution laws and other divorce-related statutes in effect in Missouri as they apply to your unique case.