Maintenance (commonly known as alimony or spousal support) is the amount of money one spouse pays to the other, by court order, for support. Maintenance is awarded to either spouse in an effort to maintain the standard of living that both parties were accustomed to during the marriage. Maintenance can be awarded to either spouse depending on the financial circumstances of the parties and the dynamic of the family during the marriage.

At the time of the divorce if maintenance is awarded it can be one or a combination of the following:

  • Permanent : This type of maintenance is to be paid until either the death of the payor or the remarriage of the recipient. The law includes a “cohabitation” clause that states maintenance ends when the recipient cohabits with another person in the avoidance of marriage.

  • Lump sum : This type of maintenance is one payment of maintenance instead of periodic (usually weekly or monthly) payments. Lump-sum maintenance just like all other maintenance is taxable to the recipient.

  • Temporary : This type of maintenance lasts for a specific period of time, usually one to two years. This type of maintenance may be awarded when the persons involved are on almost equal ground but due to certain circumstances, one person may need financial assistance in order to “get on their feet.”

  • Rehabilitative : This type of alimony is the most commonly awarded maintenance. It is awarded in a situation where the recipient is younger, or able to eventually enter or return to the work force and become financially self-supporting. Rehabilitative maintenance may include payments for the education necessary to enable the recipient to become self-supporting.

How Maintenance Is Determined

Many factors are considered in awarding maintenance or alimony including: duration of the marriage, realistic earning capacity of both parties, age, as well as physical, mental and emotional state of each party, other income including disability and retirement income, contribution by one spouse to education and furtherance of career of the other, contribution of one spouse as a homemaker, financial obligations imposed on the parties as a result of the divorce, and how much earning power will be affected by the parenting requirements of the custodial parent.

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