Divorce is a complex process that typically involves several challenging financial aspects. When most people imagine divorce, they think of dividing their property with their spouse, finalizing the dissolution process, and moving on with the next phase of their life. However, this isn’t always possible, and many divorce cases result in long-term financial agreements between the divorcing spouses.
If you plan to end your marriage in the Kansas City, MO, area, it’s essential to understand what the divorce process entails and the financial issues you will need to resolve to complete it successfully. Alimony, also known as spousal support or spousal maintenance, is a commonly misunderstood aspect of divorce that can occur whenever there is a significant financial disparity between the divorcing spouses.
What Is Alimony?
The family law code of Missouri maintains that a divorced spouse has the right to a similar standard of living to what they had while married. If one spouse were entirely dependent on the other’s income, they would likely face a much harder financial situation after a divorce than the other spouse. Some spouses do not work because their spouses make enough income to fully support their households; others cannot work due to medical conditions and disabilities. When a couple divorces, the judge handling the divorce case must review extensive financial records for both spouses to resolve property division, which often involves alimony.
Missouri is an equitable distribution state regarding property division in divorce. A judge resolving a divorce aims for the fairest, though not a necessarily equal, division of property. Both spouses must provide financial disclosure statements that contain complete and accurate financial information for all assets, real property, and debts. The judge examines these materials, and if a notable difference in financial status exists between the spouses, the judge will likely require an alimony agreement.
How Is Alimony Calculated?
Many states use formulas to calculate alimony, such as taking 40% of the higher-earning spouse’s income and reducing it by half of the lower-earning spouse’s income to determine an appropriate alimony payment. Missouri does not enforce a specific formula for alimony, and the judge handling the divorce case will evaluate the divorcing spouses’ respective financial information to determine whether alimony is necessary. If the judge deems one spouse in need of spousal maintenance, the amount of each monthly payment is typically determined by the difference in income between the spouses. The length of time that payments continue will depend on how long the marriage lasted.
In most Missouri divorces that entail alimony, one year of alimony payments will be required for every three years of marriage. For example, if a couple’s marriage lasted six years, alimony would likely continue for two years following a divorce. However, there are some situations in which a judge may determine that permanent alimony is necessary, for instance, when someone divorces after 20 or more years of marriage or when one spouse is disabled and cannot work to support themselves following divorce.
Options for Negotiating Alimony
You and your spouse may not need to resolve your divorce through litigation. As long as both of you are willing to negotiate, it’s possible to resolve your divorce much more quickly than you may have initially expected. Many couples throughout the US are choosing alternative dispute resolution to save time and money while retaining more influence over the outcomes of their divorces. When it comes to alimony, you could have several options for negotiating a more preferable agreement than a judge would likely deliver:
- If you and your spouse signed a prenuptial agreement before marriage that outlines terms for alimony, this could essentially dictate the alimony terms that will apply in divorce and remove the need for any debate. However, the prenup must be legally enforceable for you to use it in an alimony determination.
- In equitable distribution states such as Missouri, many family court judges strive to avoid the need for long-term financial agreements. Instead, they may propose a larger share of marital property for the spouse who would otherwise qualify for alimony.
- If you and your spouse agree to alternative dispute resolution, you could potentially negotiate a more personalized alimony agreement than what a judge would likely order.
If you are unsure how to approach the topic of alimony in your divorce, whether you expect to pay it or receive it, it’s essential to consult your attorney to develop a strategy for handling this issue.
Ending or Adjusting an Alimony Order
The family court system of Missouri acknowledges that life can present unexpected challenges, some of which can influence an existing family court order. It’s also possible for a divorced spouse to engage in some action that nullifies aspects of a standing family court order.
If you believe recent events have materially affected your current family court order, you can file a petition for modification with the Kansas City family court. You must outline the changes you seek to your court order and explain why those changes are both reasonable and necessary. For example, if you pay alimony to your spouse but suffer a catastrophic injury that causes a permanent disability, you may be unable to continue making your payments due to your changed circumstances.
It’s also possible for alimony to terminate due to the recipient’s actions. Typically, alimony ends when one of the divorced spouses dies, the recipient remarries, obtains a high-paying job, or begins living with a new partner. If the recipient engages in a terminating action, the paying spouse does not need to continue paying alimony.
Alimony can be one of the most contentious issues in a divorce. The paying spouse may resent the fact that they must financially support their ex, and the recipient may not enjoy the idea of being financially dependent on their ex. Whatever your situation entails, it’s best to approach the divorce process with legal representation you can trust. If you have questions regarding alimony in a Kansas City, MO, divorce, contact an experienced family law attorney as soon as possible to discuss your situation.