Missouri Divorce FAQ: What is spousal maintenance (alimony), how is it calculated, and how long does it last in Missouri?

In a Missouri divorce case, one of the issues that the Court will have to decide is the payment of maintenance (alimony) to the former spouse. Spousal maintenance payments are monthly payments made from one spouse to the other when one spouse cannot support themselves. A successful spousal maintenance claim will usually involve a situation where one spouse makes substantially more money than the other, and the receiving spouse does not have the present ability to support themselves. This could be due to one spouse being a “stay at home” parent, being out of the workforce for a significant period of time, or lacking skills or education necessary for employment. Also, the marriage usually cannot be of short duration. Most spousal maintenance cases involve marriages greater than 10 years in duration, but this is just a rule of thumb, and spousal maintenance can be awarded in any case.

There is no formula for the calculation of the amount of spousal maintenance in Missouri. The determination is made on a case by case basis, and is dependent on the income and expenses of both parties. The general rule is that maintenance is based on the actual needs of one spouse, and the actual ability to pay by the other spouse. In practice, a spousal maintenance award is usually both “too much” and “not enough”, meaning the award is likely to be more than the paying spouse wants to pay, and at the same time not as much as the receiving spouse would like. The reality is that there is a fixed sum of money to go around, and when spouses separate, there are double the expenses of maintaining two households.

A spousal maintenance award can be modifiable or non-modifiable, and it can be for a specific duration of time, or for an unlimited period of time. If maintenance is not limited in time, it is usually both modifiable and terminable at a future date upon motion of either party. Both modifiable and non-modifiable maintenance terminate by law upon death of either spouse, or remarriage of the receiving spouse, unless the decree expressly states otherwise.