Maintenance (also known as alimony) is support paid to a former spouse after a divorce. It is only available in divorce—it is not available to couples who never married. It differs from child support in several important respects. Perhaps most important, there is no “right” to maintenance after divorce. It is instead reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Based on the circumstances of each marriage, a maintenance award can range from a complete denial to indefinite, long-term payments. Also, although child support is based on a mathematic formula, there is no formula to calculate maintenance. Similarly, there is no specific end point for maintenance. Child support ends when the child reaches majority. Maintenance ends when the court believes it would be fair to do so. Additionally, maintenance is tax deductible by the payer and taxable to the recipient, and its tax treatment is maintained by specific IRS rules. Finally, maintenance can be waived permanently. These differences with child support lead to far more uncertainty and, as a result, far more disputes over the amount and duration of maintenance.
The general purpose of maintenance is to allow a former spouse to enjoy the same marital standard of living for a reasonable time after divorce. It does not automatically provide the ex-spouse with one-half of the post-divorce income, and in my experience as a divorce lawyer, that type of award is increasingly rare. It is also considered as a means of compensation for a spouse who was professionally or economically disadvantaged during a marriage. The spouse who elected to focus on childcare and homemaking while supporting the other’s career, is a prime candidate for maintenance. If the homemaking spouse’s earning power decreased because of these marital choices, maintenance is generally thought to be fair to compensate that spouse for the lost earning power. “Compensation” through maintenance may also be necessary for a spouse who supported the other’s pursuit of education, or continually followed the other spouse for career-related job transfers. Although some compensation may be necessary, the award must also be fair to the paying spouse. It serves no purpose to assist one spouse through a substantial maintenance payment that harms the other financially.
As stated above, there is no formula or rule of thumb for the amount of duration of maintenance. Judges may all view the question differently. Therefore, it is vital to work with a divorce attorney to answer the question: What is a fair amount to pay/receive? Because the outcome is so uncertain, the spouse’s position must be presented to the judge clearly, using the relevant law. A good divorce lawyer will begin evaluating that question, and establishing the client’s case, at the first meeting. The proper presentation can change the outcome by, in some cases, several thousand dollars per month. Each divorce case should be evaluated to determine if maintenance is appropriate. I strongly encourage any spouse going through a divorce to contact me for a consultation on maintenance.
I have been representing families in divorce for almost 30 years. I would be glad to discuss your concerns with a no cost, no obligation consultation. Should you be in the need of a divorce attorney whether for divorce or post-divorce matters please contact Attorney Mark L. Krueger in the Baraboo area at (608) 356-3961, Madison area at (608) 824-9540 or Statewide at (866) 455-2993. Please feel free to email at firstname.lastname@example.org and check out our website at https://khtlawyers.com. Remember, at Krueger Hernandez & Thompson SC we listen, we care, we get results!
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