The Stance of Missouri Law on Spousal Maintenance Support Payments
Get alimony information for the state of Missouri. Find out how it’s calculated, what’s considered, and view the official law text for more information.
What are Spousal Maintenance Payments?
Spousal maintenance or alimony is a court-ordered payment made during and after a divorce. Alimony payments ensure that no spouse faces financial hardship while adjusting to a post-divorce lifestyle.
Missouri’s trial courts have broad discretion in deciding whether or not to award maintenance payments and the amount and duration of the payment.
Missouri Spousal Support Statute
Missouri courts use Missouri Revised Statues code 452.335 to determine spousal support payments.
According to this code, spousal support is meant for spouses undergoing a divorce or legal separation.
Qualification for Spousal Support Payments
A family court in Missouri can grant a maintenance order to either spouse irrespective of gender.
However, the spouse seeking maintenance needs to meet the following conditions to qualify for spousal support:
Lacks sufficient property, including marital property, to provide for their reasonable needs
Not financially independent or having adequate employment,
A custodial parent of a child whose needs make it impossible or unrealistic for employment outside the home.
If you are unsure whether you or your former spouse qualifies for spousal support, you may like to hire a trusted divorce attorney to understand the laws and how they can apply in your situation.
Alimony and Taxes
If you finalized your divorce proceedings by December 31, 2018, alimony payments are tax-deductible to the paying spouse and taxable to the other spouse requesting maintenance.
Couples negotiating alimony need to consider how tax affects their annual income and potential alimony payments.
Before finalizing your divorce, it is highly recommended that you consult both a tax professional and a divorce attorney.
Penalties for Defaulters
Missed maintenance payments can lead to judgments against the paying spouse. Under Missouri law, missed alimony payments are considered a court order violation.
A party not paying maintenance as ordered may be served a motion for contempt of court. The non-paying spouse may be imprisoned until they pay their fine or the contempt is cured.
How Long Is Spousal Support in Missouri?
The duration of spousal support payments is a matter that is decided in court. When making its decision, the court may not decide on a fixed termination date for spousal support.
Nonetheless, there are three categories of duration for alimony payments, as discussed below:
Temporary alimony is awarded at the court’s discretion during the divorce proceedings and before the divorce case settles.
Rehabilitative or short-term alimony bridges the gap between when the divorce is finalized and when the dependent spouse becomes self-supporting.
Permanent or long-term alimony refers to spousal maintenance granted to a spouse with significant needs for life or until retirement age.
Courts rarely grant long-term alimony in Missouri except when the dependent spouse is too old or has a disability that prevents employment.
How Is Spousal Support Determined in Missouri?
The court has the right to determine the amount and duration of such maintenance payments.
The duration of alimony is predominantly decided based on the time the dependent spouse requires to acquire education or the necessary job skills to support themselves.
Missouri laws empower the court to terminate alimony if the receiving spouse remarries or cohabits. Until then, the paying spouse must comply with the alimony order.
In making its decision, the court considers all relevant factors, which include:
- The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to them and whether a provision has been made for them if they are the custodial parent of a child
- The ability of the dependent spouse to meet his own needs
- The time required for the dependent spouse to acquire sufficient education or training to seek employment
- Income of each spouse
- The marital lifestyle
- Obligations, assets, and marital properties
- Duration of the marriage
- Conduct during marriage
- The spouse’s age, physical and emotional condition.
Missouri law requires proof that spouses seeking support cannot provide for themselves. A spouse could also argue that they are custodians of a child whose condition makes it appropriate for them not to seek outside employment.
How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Receive Alimony in MO?
The length of the marriage or legal separation is not a significant factor in alimony payments.
However, it is one of the factors a court needs to consider to determine the duration of alimony. Ultimately, how this factor affects decisions on alimony differs from case to case.
Impact of Marital Misconduct in Determining Alimony
Note that the court can consider marital misconduct, such as adultery when deciding on an alimony award.
However, the court will not deny alimony to a spouse because that spouse had an affair. It will also not award alimony to a financially independent spouse as a “punishment” for the unfaithful spouse.
Conduct during the marriage is only one of the factors to be considered in an alimony case. Before determining whether support should be awarded, the court must consider all factors.
Understanding the laws and preparing a compelling case for alimony can be challenging. To obtain assistance in understanding the laws and your options, consider speaking with a leading custody attorney in your area.
When deciding, the court must include a modification clause in its alimony orders. To make an alimony order non-modifiable, both spouses must agree in writing.
Suppose there is no agreement and the court does not prohibit modification. In that case, either spouse can request a review of the support order if there is a substantial and continuing change of circumstances.
If a supported spouse becomes financially independent, dead, or remarries, the court may reduce or end alimony.
How to Avoid Paying Spousal Support in MO
Avoiding spousal support payments ordered by the court can have serious consequences. If you need to go against a court order, it is vital that you speak with a family law attorney beforehand.
A family law attorney may provide reliable strategies to legally avoid paying alimony to the former spouse. For example, you can suggest a termination date during the divorce or request a modification or termination after the divorce is finalized.
You can request to terminate an alimony order after the divorce is finalized if you can prove the following of your former spouse:
Their financial circumstances have improved
They have finished their education, training, or vocational assessment
They have remarried
They have changed their address.
At this point, the courts will review the case and, depending on the facts, may decide to reduce the alimony amount or terminate it altogether.
If you wish to avoid paying spousal support, your knowledgeable divorce lawyer can recommend the most effective strategies based on your circumstances.