In Missouri, when a couple files for divorce, one of the spouses may be entitled to receive financial support from the other. This support is known as maintenance or alimony. A judge will make an alimony order when one spouse cannot maintain living expenses and the other spouse is financially able to provide support. The supported spouse may be disabled or may have a disadvantage in terms of education or career training. Maintenance is not meant to punish the paying spouse—rather, it is supposed to make sure that both spouses can maintain a standard of living after divorce that is as close as possible to what they had during the marriage.
When Alimony is Awarded
To determine whether alimony is appropriate, the judge will first evaluate whether the spouse requesting alimony has sufficient property to be self-supporting. If not, the next inquiry is whether the spouse can become self supporting by getting a job or some kind of education or training. A spouse may also need support if a child requires special care so that the parent’s employment outside the home would be inappropriate.
The Amount and Duration of an Alimony Award
If the court finds that it is appropriate to award maintenance, it looks at the following factors to determine the duration and amount:
- the financial resources of the dependent spouse, including any property awarded during divorce
- the time necessary for the dependent spouse to obtain further education and training
- each spouse’s earning capacity
- the standard of living established during the marriage
- the duration of the marriage
- each spouse’s assets and debts
- each spouse’s conduct during marriage. and
- the age and physical and emotional condition of the spouse asking for support and the ability of the other spouse to provide that support.
Modification and Termination of Alimony
In an order for maintenance, the judge may make the order modifiable or nonmodifiable. In a modifiable order, the spouses can come back to court for a change in the order if there has been a substantial change in circumstances—a change so substantial that continuing the order would make the terms unreasonable. For example, if the dependent spouse finds a job and had enough money to be entirely self-supporting, the court may reduce or cancel the payments. Moving in with a partner is also a change in circumstances that can affect a support award, and the supported spouse’s remarriage almost always ends support.
In a nonmodifiable order, the maintenance will continue even if both spouses’ circumstances have changed. Nonmodifiable orders generally have a set end date or are intended to last until a terminating event, such as remarriage of the supported spouse. It’s very rare for alimony to be truly permanent, meaning it lasts until the death of the supported spouse, but under special circumstances a judge might make such an order.
Unless the order states otherwise, a maintenance order is automatically terminated if the dependent spouse remarries or at the death of either spouse. However, in certain circumstances, the court may put into the order that the maintenance payments will continue even after remarriage or the death of the paying spouse.
Missouri does not have specific guidelines for calculating alimony; each maintenance order is tailored to the specific circumstances of the case.
Tax Implications of Alimony
Maintenance payments are tax deductible to the payor, and reportable as income by the spouse receiving the payments.
Withholding Orders for Alimony
If your spouse is delinquent in paying maintenance, you can request an income withholding order. An income withholding order would allow for the maintenance amount to be automatically deducted from your spouse’s paycheck and sent directly to you.
Missouri Revised Statutes
§ 452.335 Maintenance order, findings required for—termination date, may be modified, when.
§ 452.075 Remarriage of former spouse ends alimony
§ 452.370 Modification of judgment as to maintenance or support