What is Maintenance, and How is it Determined?

September 7th, 2016

What is Maintenance, and How is it Determined?

By Brittany O’Brien and Heather Rooney McBride


Maintenance is what the State of Missouri calls alimony or spousal support; it is money that is paid by one former spouse to the other so that he or she can afford living expenses. In order to get maintenance, one must first ask for it in a pleading filed with the appropriate state court.  If it is not requested in the pleading, the court will likely view the claim as being waived.


Once requested, the Court will only grant maintenance if it finds that the party seeking it is unable to meet his reasonable needs and unable to work or make enough money working to meet those needs.  The term “reasonable need” is not defined, but most courts interpret it as more than survival needs and less than being able to afford whatever you want.


As for how much maintenance and for how long a person will receive it, the court will consider ten factors:


  1. The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including property and his or her ability to meet needs through employment;
  2. The time it would take for the person seeking maintenance to acquire education or training to find appropriate employment;
  3. The comparative earning capacity of each spouse;
  4. The standard of living of the parties during the marriage;
  5. The obligations and assets of each party;
  6. The duration of the marriage;
  7. The age, and physical and mental condition of the person seeking maintenance;
  8. The ability of the person who would be paying maintenance to meet his or her own needs should he or she be ordered to pay the other party;
  9. The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and
  10. Any other pertinent factors.


None of these factors weigh higher than any others, and they are to be considered together.  If it is awarding maintenance, the court can also decide if the award can be changed or, alternatively, if it is unmodifiable.


Thus, for example, a court may find that a woman who had been a homemaker is in need of maintenance because she is unemployed and has expenses; however, the court may also decide that while she does not have the skills necessary to obtain employment immediately, there is nothing preventing her from being able to obtain those skills within three years.  In that scenario, the court might order maintenance of a certain amount for a period of three years.  In a situation where both parties are not working due to retirement, the party asking for maintenance may very well need it; however, if the opposing party has no ability to pay and still meet his own needs, the Court is unlikely to order maintenance.

There is no maintenance formula like there is for child support; different judges will interpret the same facts in slightly different ways.  Therefore, if you are getting divorced and believe you should receive maintenance, make sure you communicate that to your attorney so your attorney can advise you as to what to expect and draft proper documentation to file with the court.


If you are getting divorced or are in need of maintenance, the family law attorneys at Rooney McBride & Smith, LLC can assist you.  Contact us at 417-708-9681 today to schedule your free consultation.