A person may be entitled to receive spousal support or alimony during and/or following a divorce or legal separation in Maine.
I think spousal support may be an issue in my divorce. What should I do?
If spousal support may be an issue in your divorce or separation, it’s important to obtain legal advice. An award of alimony can result in months, years or indefinite payments or receipt of payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars. It is important to have an attorney who thoroughly understands Maine’s spousal support statutes and case law. In some instances, spousal support may be modified. In other instances, if the award states that it is not subject to modification, it may be difficult or impossible to modify it. Payment from one spouse or former spouse to another labeled as alimony or spousal support also has tax consequences.
I have a lot going on. Can I deal with this after the divorce?
A final judgment that does not award spousal support will most likely forever preclude an award of spousal support in the future. Therefore, it is important to have an attorney to guide you through the process of divorce or legal separation if spousal support or alimony may be an issue in the matter.
There are three types of spousal support in Maine:
- General support may be awarded to provide financial assistance to a spouse with less earning capacity than the other spouse so that both can spouses maintain a reasonable standard of living after the divorce.
- Transitional support to assist with a spouse’s short-term needs resulting from the ending relationship or re-entry or advancement in the workforce.
- Reimbursement support may be awarded in limited circumstances, including instances of economic misconduct by a spouse or substantial contributions that one spouse made toward the other’s education or occupational advancement.
How does the Court determine spousal support or alimony?
Maine’s spousal support statute (Title 19-A § 951-A), defines the types of support and sets forth the factors that the Court should consider in determining an award of spousal support. The statute also provides guidelines for the Court as to the length of time that the spousal support should be awarded. However, if a person has been married for more than 20 years, the Court may order that spousal support be paid indefinitely.
Some of the considerations that the Court may make in deciding whether an award of spousal support should be given include but are not limited to:
- The length of the marriage
- The ability of each party to pay
- The parties’ employment history and employment potential
- Health and disabilities of a party
- Contributions of either party as a homemaker
- The standard of living of the parties during the marriage
- The age of each party
- Economic misconduct by either party resulting in a decrease of marital property or income
Does gender make a difference in determining alimony?
The gender of a party (whether a person is male or female) is not considered. A male or female may be ordered to pay spousal support. Likewise, a male or female may be the recipient of spousal support.
While the Court will likely consider a spouse’s ability to pay when deciding whether spousal support is appropriate, a spouse may be ordered to pay spousal support even if he or she is not necessarily “wealthy.” In some situations, spousal support may be helpful to a spouse who has been out of the workforce for several years, perhaps taking care of young children or family members. This spouse may need retraining or education in order to find meaningful employment.
In other situations, a spouse may be disabled, or may be of an age that it would not make sense to start a new career. In some instances, a spouse may be able to work, but may only have modest income compared to the other spouse. Every situation is different and the Court will look at the unique facts in each case. An experienced attorney can be helpful in knowing how to best present the facts to the Court, and which facts are most important. In some cases, expert testimony may be needed, such as a medical care provider or vocational counselor.