Alimony (also called maintenance) is a court-ordered payment that one spouse makes to the other during the divorce process, for a period after the divorce, or sometimes, both during and after the divorce.
Historically, courts reserved alimony awards for “traditional marriages” where one spouse worked outside the home while the other working in the home raising children and doing household chores. Divorce for both spouses can cause financial problems, but for unemployed spouses without job skills, adjusting to one income can cause financial ruin.
Although today it’s common for both spouses to work outside the home today, lower-earning spouses often need financial assistance in the form of alimony payments during and sometimes after a divorce.
Like many other states, the law allows a judge in Kansas to award three types of alimony: temporary (during the divorce), short-term, or long-term. For some couples, living together during the lengthy divorce process isn’t possible, so when one person files for divorce, both spouses will need to adjust to living on a single income.
If one spouse earns more than the other and can afford it, the court may order temporary alimony so that the lower-earning spouse can meet financial obligations during the divorce. Temporary alimony is not a guarantee for support after the divorce, and it ends when the judge issues a new order and/or finalizes the divorce.
After the divorce, the judge may award short- or long-term alimony if appropriate. Short-term awards—sometimes called rehabilitative alimony—are beneficial for spouses who can work to become financially independent, but need time and financial assistance to find employment.
Typically, the court will order short-term support when the recipient spouse is attending school or acquiring job training necessary to compete in the current job market. The judge may request the supported spouse to create a plan explaining how long it will take to gain the proper training and skills to get a job and become self-supporting. The court will usually set an end date for support, which is the deadline for the recipient spouse to find employment.
Long-term support is rare, but in some cases, it's the only way that one spouse can survive after a divorce. While the court presumes that both spouses will work after the divorce and become self-supporting, some spouses aren’t able to because of advanced age, health issues, disabilities, or other circumstances. Long-term support usually ends when the paying spouse dies, or the recipient remarries.
Judges in Kansas may not order alimony for a duration longer than 121 months. (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 23-2904 (2018).) However, if the original court order states that a judge can review and reassess after the initial 121 months, a judge may order additional support. It’s rare in Kansas for any alimony award to exceed this time limit, unless the spouses agree to an extension.
The primary requirements for any alimony case are that one spouse needs support and the other can afford to pay it. Either spouse can ask the court for alimony, regardless of gender, and the court will consider a variety of factors when deciding whether maintenance is appropriate.
Unlike many other states, Kansas doesn’t have a specific set of factors for the court to consider in alimony cases, but commonly, judges will evaluate:
Judges have broad discretion when ordering alimony, and no single factor is more important than the others. The court will consider all relevant factors before deciding the type, amount, and duration of support. As with most divorce-related issues, like child support, child custody, and property division, couples can negotiate the terms of alimony and the judge will usually support the agreement.
Spouses paying alimony in Kansas may pay support in a lump-sum, by periodic payments, or with a percentage of earnings. (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 23-2902 (2018).) Most judges will order monthly periodic alimony payments.
Unless the couple agrees differently, the court will generally require the paying spouse to pay support directly to the central unit for collection and disbursement of support payments, which is usually a local government agency. (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 23-2905 (2018).)
The court will generally include an income withholding order to help facilitate payments. An income withholding order directs the paying spouse’s employer to deduct support payments from the employee’s paycheck. (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 23-3103 (2018).)
If the paying spouse doesn’t have a steady income but does have several assets available, the court may require a lump-sum payment of support.
Whether the court requires a periodic or lump-sum payment, the paying spouse must obey the court order. In every support order, the court reserves the right to exercise contempt powers over the paying spouse, meaning if you fail to pay, the court will require you to attend a hearing and explain why you’re not following the court order. A contempt charge is serious and can carry penalties with it, such as paying your spouse’s attorney fees, paying fines, or the loss of a driver’s or professional license. (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 23-3119 (2018).)
Unless you and your spouse agreed otherwise, either of you can request a modification (change) to the support award in the future. The court will modify your award if you can demonstrate that your (or your spouse’s) circumstances changed since the last order. (Kan. Stat. Ann. § 23-2903 (2018).)
Until recently, tax laws permitted paying spouses to deduct alimony payments for tax purposes and required the supported spouse to report and pay taxes on the income. However, beginning January 1, 2019, there is no longer a tax deduction available for paying spouses, and the recipient does not have to pay taxes on the money.
Because the recent tax changes may impact each couple’s annual income, both spouses should speak with an experienced attorney before negotiating a support award.