Maintenance (formerly known as alimony) can be ordered by the trial court. The purpose of maintenance is to help provide for the reasonable needs of a party who the court determines can not meet them on their own.
Missouri’s courts have wide discretion in determining whether or not maintenance should be awarded and the amount and duration of maintenance as well. Maintenance is not an absolute right, and the party requesting maintenance has the burden to prove to the court that they are in need of help to provide for their reasonable needs.
Missouri courts look to Missouri revised statute §452.335 to determine maintenance issues. Missouri Revised Statute §452.335 provides:
1. In a proceeding for nonretroactive invalidity, dissolution of marriage or legal separation, or a proceeding for maintenance following dissolution of the marriage by a court which lacked personal jurisdiction over the absent spouse, the court may grant a maintenance order to either spouse, but only if it finds that the spouse seeking maintenance:
(1) Lacks sufficient property, including marital property apportioned to him, to provide for his reasonable needs; and
(2) Is unable to support himself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.
2. The maintenance order shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just, and after considering all relevant factors including:
(1) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party as custodian;
(2) The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment;
(3) The comparative earning capacity of each spouse;
(4) The standard of living established during the marriage;
(5) The obligations and assets, including the marital property apportioned to him and the separate property of each party;
(6) The duration of the marriage;
(7) The age, and the physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance;
(8) The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;
(9) The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and
(10) Any other relevant factors.
Under the test used by the trial court, the court must determine that the party lacks property to provide for their reasonable needs and that they are not able to provide for themselves through appropriate employment or that they are the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside the home.
If the court determines that both of these thresholds have been met by the party seeking maintenance then and only then the court will look to: the financial resources of the party seeking maintenance; the time necessary to obtain training or education to meet the parties’ reasonable needs; the parties’ earning capacities; the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage; the obligations and assets of the parties; the duration of the marriage; the age of the party seeking maintenance; the physical and emotional health of the party seeking maintenance; the ability of the party to meet their reasonable needs while paying maintenance; the parties’ conduct during the marriage and any other relevant factor to determine the amount and duration of maintenance.
Modifying Maintenance in Missouri
If the court determines that maintenance shall be ordered, the court can order statutory maintenance, which can be modifiable or non-modifiable. The court can order maintenance to terminate upon a specific event or date.
The parties may also make an agreement as to the amount and duration of the maintenance award; this is referred as contractual maintenance. The duration of Court ordered statutory maintenance is theoretically unlimited or generally until the court modifies the award, terminates the award, upon the payor’s death, upon the payee’s death or upon the payee’s remarriage.
A Court retains jurisdiction after entry of a Judgment Decree of Dissolution to modify the court ordered statutory maintenance award if the maintenance awarded is deemed modifiable. Under modifiable maintenance, the court may order that the maintenance be decreased, increased, terminated, extended, or otherwise modified based upon a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.
A party must bring an action to modify maintenance and in order for the court to modify it. Under non-modifiable maintenance, the court will not modify the maintenance award. However, non-modifiable maintenance will generally terminate upon the death of either party or upon the remarriage upon the party receiving maintenance.
Amount of Maintenance in Missouri
With respect to the amount of a maintenance award, Missouri courts are granted wide discretion in determining the amount of a maintenance award. Maintenance is considered income to the recipient party and is a reduction in income for the payor spouse for income tax and child support calculation purposes.
Typically maintenance is paid in periodic payments. Maintenance may be paid directly to the Missouri Family Support Payment Center for remittance to the spouse receiving maintenance or directly to the spouse receiving maintenance. Maintenance is a domestic support obligation and is typically not dischargeable in bankruptcy.
Missouri Maintenance Enforcement
Missed maintenance payments may result in judgments against the payor spouse for each missed payment. These judgments may be enforced by garnishment of wages, seizure of bank accounts, real estate, and other non-exempt property.
Additionally, a party who fails to make maintenance payments as ordered may be served by the opposing party with a motion for contempt. If the non-paying party is found to be in contempt of court, the non-paying spouse may be punished by imprisonment until the party cures the contempt, fines, and/or attorney fees.