There are several concerns in divorce cases, depending on your circumstances. These can include child custody arrangements, child support, the division of your marital property, and spousal maintenance – also known as alimony.
While a spousal maintenance award is never a given and the issue doesn’t come into play in every case, there are divorces in which maintenance plays an important role.
Whether your husband can seek spousal support or not will depend on a variety of variables. Understanding the basics as they relate to spousal maintenance can help you make decisions that protect your rights throughout the divorce process.
Can Your Husband Seek Spousal Support?
Spousal maintenance is generally predicated on financial disparity. If, for example, you are the primary breadwinner and your husband was the primary caregiver for your children throughout your marriage, he might be able to successfully seek alimony until he is able to begin working and supporting himself. There are, however, a number of considerations to take into account. Generally, the longer you were married and the greater the difference in earning ability and assets between the two of you, the greater the chance that your husband will be eligible to seek spousal support.
Will Your Husband Be Awarded Alimony?
Every divorce comes with its own highly specific financial circumstances, but the general rule is that if your husband lacks the means to provide for himself and is incapable of attaining appropriate employment right away, he might be awarded maintenance.
This means that if your spouse is unemployed or simply doesn’t earn enough, if his portion of the marital assets aren’t sufficient to make up the difference, and if he doesn’t have the education, skills, or experience to obtain a job that would provide him with the necessary means to support himself – the court might look to you to help him move forward post-divorce with financial support.
It’s important to recognize, however, that alimony is very rarely a permanent proposition. Instead, alimony is a stopgap measure that will be used to help your ex find his financial footing after the divorce. Generally, the longer your marriage and the greater the financial disparity, the longer the alimony period.
Determining Spousal Maintenance
Every determination regarding alimony is specific to the individual situation, but there are some basics that almost universally apply. The court will take a variety of factors into careful consideration in determining whether alimony is appropriate and, if so, what its duration should be. These factors can include:
- The duration of your marriage (having been married for ten years or more can play an important role)
- The age and health status of both you and your husband
- How your marital property was divided (each of your post-divorce assets)
- The level of education each of you has (including your level of education now as compared to your level of education when you married)
- Your earning capacity in relation to your husband’s earning capacity
- The tax consequences related to your divorce
- The contents of any premarital or postmarital contractual agreements (a prenup, for example)
- The amount of time it will likely be necessary for your husband to become self-supporting at a level that’s comparable to the one you maintained as a married couple
- Any contribution that your husband made to your education or to further your career during the course of your marriage
- Any other circumstances that the court deems relevant
if the court determines that your husband is entitled to maintenance, it will then go about calculating the appropriate amount and duration, which will be predicated on your ability to pay while still satisfactorily supporting yourself.
What Does Maintenance Cover?
Maintenance can be a mechanism for making property division more equitable, a means of short-term support to help your ex-husband become financially self-sufficient, or a permanent support strategy for a spouse who has a limited ability to earn that cannot be rectified or who is outright unemployable (because of a disability, for example). Permanent maintenance is far less common than temporary maintenance.
When it comes to the division of marital property, there are instances when maintenance can help make the distribution more equitable. For example, if you own and manage a business that supported your family throughout your marriage, it can be very difficult to value and/or divide the business for divorce purposes.
If you keep the business, the court may award your ex-husband maintenance to help smooth out any disparity in the property division. Further, if your husband didn’t work or was underemployed during the course of your marriage, the court may award him temporary maintenance while he finds his way back into the work world and begins earning a sufficient salary.
In most situations, there simply is no guarantee of maintenance. If the judge finds, for example, that your ex was taking advantage of your generosity by not working throughout the marriage, he or she could deny maintenance.
Further, if your husband’s marital misconduct – such as overly lavish spending or an extramarital affair – brought about the dissolution of your marriage, the judge can take that into consideration in determining whether maintenance is appropriate or not.
Perhaps more than any other divorce issues, the question of maintenance is highly specific to the situation at hand and often hotly contested. If you have maintenance concerns, you need the professional legal counsel of an experienced divorce attorney on your side.