What is maintenance?

Maintenance, also called alimony, is spousal support from one to the other, which can be temporary or permanent, or for a limited number of years and it can be reviewable. There’s also maintenance in gross which is a specific dollar amount that has to be provided which has to be paid over a longer period of time or paid off quicker.

The court is going to look at several different factors to determine whether a party is going to be able to receive maintenance. The most common areas that the court is going to look at is the length of the marriage, the disparity of income between the parties and the lifestyle that the parties grew accustomed to. So, if you have a long marriage where one party makes a lot of money and the other party makes very little and the couple lived a healthy lifestyle, the odds are the maintenance award is going to be lengthy and high.

If, on the other hand, you have couples that make approximately the same amount of money, have the same educational background; there would not necessarily be any maintenance awarded. After all, maintenance is spousal support so if each spouse is capable of supporting him or herself, then there’s no need for a contribution or a maintenance award from the other side.

Now, statutory events will terminate maintenance, and those include the death of either party, the one receiving the maintenance remarries, or when the person receiving the maintenance starts living with someone on a conjugal resident basis. If any of those events occur, then the maintenance can be statutorily terminated. As you can imagine, someone is going to be very careful about either remarrying or living with someone on a resident conjugal basis if he or she desires to keep the maintenance flowing.

Maintenance is a very contested issue in many divorces. It’s one of those things that you really can’t put a finger on as to how much, how long and why. For those reasons, the court has numerous factors and broad discretion to determine whether or not maintenance should be awarded and if so, for how long and for how much.