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Spousal Maintenance for the Spouse who Sacrificed

  • by Danielle Montalto-Bly

These days, many couples go into a marriage on equal footing in terms of education and career. However, as time goes on some couples make decisions for the “greater good.” This may mean that one party sacrifices his or her time, money and/or career to benefit the family, at his or her own personal expense. Often times it’s to have and raise children, but it may also be to help a spouse make their career dreams come true. As a couple, it is the best decision. However, if that “couple” ceases to exist, it may not be great for each individual. 

Where someone makes those types of sacrifices and is unmarried, there is little to no recourse under the law. However, marriage provides legal protections for people in those situations. It allows for something known as “equity” to put the parties back on equal footing, both during a divorce action and after. These protections are put in place to incentivize people to do what’s best for their family, without fear of fully sacrificing their own interests. 

The legal relief that provides this protection is known as maintenance, or spousal support. A person may apply for temporary or final maintenance to allow the sacrificing party time to rehabilitate to where they would be if they had not made that sacrifice. Temporary maintenance allows a party some financial relief during the course of the litigation, so that no one is put in a position where they must settle the case due to financial constraint. Final maintenance allows someone a set period of time to complete education or re-enter the workforce and become self-supporting. 

On the surface, the two most important elements in determining maintenance is the length of the marriage and the disparity in income. Marriages that lasted between one and fifteen years calculate ¼ to ⅓ of the marriage, whereas marriages longer than fifteen years can be up to ½ of the length of the marriage. To determine the number, the court applies two different calculations and goes with the lower number as the “guideline amount.” 

From there, the Court considers eighteen factors, including age, health, education of the parties, inheritance/separate property money, etc. Based on these factors, the Court may increase or decrease the amount of the award and the length of time it is awarded. 

In order to find out how these laws affect each individual case, it’s important that the details be discussed with a skilled attorney. Contact our office today to speak with someone who can help.