Show Me the Money: A Brief Review of Maintenance in the ‘Show Me’ State

May 31st, 2019

Show Me the Money:  A Brief Review of Maintenance in the ‘Show Me’ State

By: Austin E. Williamson and Heather Rooney McBride

It may not come as a surprise that maintenance (formally known as alimony) is routinely one of the more hotly contested matters in dissolution.  That is generally because both spouses typically believe they are getting the raw end of the financial deal (i.e. paying too much/not getting paid enough) and in most cases, both parties are typically wrong.

The purpose of maintenance is to help provide or supplement the reasonable needs of a party who the Court determines, based upon the specific facts of the case, cannot meet his or her own needs without assistance. Reasonable need for maintenance purposes is not based on entitlement or wrongs committed in the relationship, it is based solely on need; thus, the fact that one party makes more money than the other does not create a presumption that maintenance will be awarded; rather, the Court must first consider the following statutory two-part threshold test:

1) Is there sufficient property, including marital property, apportioned to a spouse to meet his or her reasonable needs?; or

2) Is the spouse capable through appropriate employment to meet his or her reasonable needs, or is an employable spouse the physical custodian of a child whose circumstances make it appropriate that the spouse not seek employment at this time?

Rev. Mo. Stat. §452.355 (2019).

If, after an examination of the evidence, both of these inquiries are answered in the negative, then maintenance may be appropriate; however, the applicable word is “may” because the Court is not obligated to award maintenance even should a party meet the threshold test. 

If the court believes maintenance is appropriate, then the order for maintenance shall be in such amounts and for such periods of time as the court deems just after considering all relevant factors, which may include but are not necessarily limited to:

(1) The financial resources of the party seeking maintenance, including marital property apportioned to him, and his ability to meet his needs independently, including the extent to which a provision for support of a child living with the party includes a sum for that party as custodian;

(2) The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment;

(3) The comparative earning capacity of each spouse;

(4) The standard of living established during the marriage;

(5) The obligations and assets, including the marital property apportioned to him and the separate property of each party;

(6) The duration of the marriage;

(7) The age, and the physical and emotional condition, of the spouse seeking maintenance;

(8) The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet his needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance;

(9) The conduct of the parties during the marriage; and

(10) Any other relevant factors.

Rev. Mo. Stat. §452.355 (2019).

Maintenance is not about punishing one spouse or rewarding the other; rather, maintenance is about the reasonable need of the more dependent spouse.  Complicating matters is that there is no bright-line rule as to when maintenance will be awarded; neither is there a “magic formula” that determines the amount of maintenance to be awarded if a party is qualified.  Rather, the decision of whether maintenance should be awarded rests squarely on the shoulders of the trial judge or commission and will vary significantly from case to case.

If you would like to speak with one of our experienced domestic attorneys about requesting maintenance or your options regarding any family law matter, please contact Rooney McBride & Smith, LLC at 417-708-9681 to schedule a free consultation.