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How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony in MO?

When a couple files for divorce in Missouri, one spouse may be entitled to get financial support from the other. Formerly known as alimony, this support is also referred to as spousal support or spousal maintenance.

Determining and awarding alimony is a vital part of the divorce process, making sure each spouse receives sufficient funds after separation. Spousal support payments are made each month by one spouse to the other who lacks the means for self-support. Spousal support is not a fixed right, and the spouse seeking support must prove to the court that they actually need help to live independently.

In many marriages, one spouse will have relinquished the opportunity to earn a regular income in order to perform their domestic obligations and to take care of family matters. When a couple ends their marriage, that newly divorced spouse must look for housing and other necessities. They often lack the finances to cover their expenses.

When spousal maintenance is awarded

The court will award spousal support payments when one party cannot maintain living expenses and the other party can ably provide financial support. The supported spouse may suffer some disability or is less advantaged in terms of education or employment.

Spousal maintenance is not meant to impose punishment on the paying spouse. It is instead supposed to ensure that both parties can sustain a living standard after divorce that comes close to what they had during the marriage.

Alimony – how much and for how long?

Missouri courts may order permanent, short-term, or temporary alimony.

  • Permanent or long-term alimony refers to spousal maintenance that is granted to a spouse who has significant needs either for life or until retirement age. Long-term alimony is usually not granted by courts in Missouri.
  • Rehabilitative or short-term alimony is replacing permanent alimony. It is intended to bridge the gap between the date the divorce was finalized and the time the dependent spouse becomes self-supporting.
  • Temporary alimony is awarded at the discretion of the court during the divorce proceedings and before the final decree.

In many cases, the court may or may not decide on a fixed termination date for support. The paying spouse must comply until the circumstances of either the paying spouse or the dependent spouse change. Alimony is decided by Missouri courts based on the time required by the dependent spouse to acquire education or the necessary job skills to support themselves.

Qualification for alimony in Missouri

If the court finds it suitable to grant alimony, the following factors are considered to help determine if a dependent spouse is qualified for financial support:

  • The dependent spouse has sufficient financial resources, including marital properly awarded during divorce, to be self-supporting.
  • The time required by the dependent spouse to support themselves by finding appropriate employment or pursuing further education and career training.
  • The dependent spouse is the custodian of a child requiring special care or whose condition makes it unsuitable for the parent to seek employment outside the home.

How courts determine the amount of spousal support

Once the court has determined that the requirements stated above have been met, it may consider the following factors to determine the amount of spousal support a dependent spouse can receive.

  • the couple’s standard of living before filing a divorce
  • the source of income and financial obligations of each spouse
  • the length of the couple’s marriage
  • the assets and debts accrued by each spouse
  • the conduct of each spouse during their marriage
  • the age and health condition of the dependent spouse

Most divorce decrees include a provision that a dependent spouse must seek employment and create a means of supporting themselves while receiving alimony payments. If the dependent spouse does not show any effort to become financially independent, the paying spouse can petition the court to terminate spousal payments.

Factors that affect spousal support

Several factors impact the duration of spousal support. These are left at the discretion of the judge who will study the circumstances of the case. These factors are:

  • Remarriage of the dependent spouse. A paying spouse is not required to support a remarried spouse unless the decree clearly (although rarely) stipulates it.
  • Death of the dependent spouse.
  • Death of the paying spouse. In this case, the estate of the departed spouse may or may not continue support depending on the dependent spouse’s condition in life.

The duration of marriage to receive alimony

The duration of a couple’s marriage in order to qualify for alimony payments varies widely from state to state. Although some states set a minimum length of at least ten years, other states fix the amount of alimony a spouse can receive rather than specify how long they should be married before they can qualify for it.

State laws can vary

Courts set spousal support in compliance with state laws and regulations. While state laws can vary, they generally define a set of factors for consideration before judges’ grant alimony.

State laws can also set limits on the types of spousal support the courts can award, such as allowing alimony for education and career training but limiting alimony for other purposes. It is therefore important for divorcing couples to know their state’s laws on alimony.

Florida courts are likely to grant long-term alimony payments only for marriages of long duration, those lasting no less than 17 years. Depending on the circumstances, shorter-term marriages may be eligible for other types of alimony.

In Texas, a marriage must have a minimum length of least ten years before a court will award alimony. Some states like Maine, Mississippi and Tennessee do prescribe a minimum length of marriage before a spouse is qualified to receive alimony. 

Most states don’t offer precise guidelines on how courts should determine alimony, so awards can vary greatly from judge to judge. An experienced divorce lawyer may be aware of a judge’s tendencies when it comes to granting alimony. If you are trying to work out an alimony agreement with your spouse, both of you should have lawyers. Determining the right amount and duration of spousal support is difficult and best handled by an experienced family law attorney.

Consult an experienced Missouri divorce lawyer to help with your alimony claim

A marriage is essentially a binding contract between two people to become a single economic entity. Divorce is a violation of that contract and both spouses generally have the right to seek suitable financial support to help them live on their own.

Whether you are seeking alimony or are being requested to provide spousal support, consider consulting an experienced Missouri divorce lawyer today. Our attorneys at Shea Kohl Law, LC will provide you with well-founded legal advice that will help you make the right choices in your case.

Contact Shea Kohl Law, LC today at (636) 946-9999 to schedule your no-obligation consultation, or email us by filling out our online contact form.

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