Effective January 1, 2014 a new maintenance statute went into effect which imposes presumptive awards of maintenance to guide a Court’s determination. The formula starts with the temporary maintenance formula of 40% of the Higher Income minus 50% of the Lower Income.
By way of example: Husband makes $4,000 per month, Wife makes $2000 per month. Forty Percent of Husband is $1600. Half the Wife’s is $1000. Husband pays $600 per month maintenance.
The new statute also imposes presumptive limits on the length of your maintenance term, based upon how long you and your spouse have been married. For marriages of less than 3 years, maintenance will presumptively not be awarded. Possible durations of maintenance awards go from 11 months for a 3 year marriage, to 54 months of payments for a 10 year marriage, to 90 months for a 15 year marriage to 120 months (10 years) for a 20 year marriage.
In the past “periodic maintenance” or “rehabilitative maintenance” or some other form of temporary maintenance may be awarded for a stay at home spouse to get the education or job skills necessary to re-enter the job market and support themselves. Therefore maintenance may be ordered for the length of time to update job skills or even for the time to get a college degree. These types of maintenance were to be determined by the court considering a number of factors under the old law.
The new factors for the award of maintenance may be generally summarized as the needs for the spouse seeking maintenance, the level of economic benefit and lifestyle during the marriage and the ability of the paying spouse to afford to pay the maintenance.
The statute lists specific factors for the court to consider:
- The financial resources of the recipient spouse, including the actual or potential income from separate or marital property or any other source and the ability of the recipient spouse to meet his or her needs independently;
- The financial resources of the payor spouse, including the actual or potential income from separate or marital property or any other source and the ability of the payor spouse to meet his or her reasonable needs while paying maintenance;
- The lifestyle during the marriage;
- The distribution of marital property, including whether additional marital property may be awarded to reduce or alleviate the need for maintenance;
- Both parties' income, employment, and employability, obtainable through reasonable diligence and additional training or education, if necessary, and any necessary reduction in employment due to the needs of an unemancipated child of the marriage or the circumstances of the parties;
- Whether one party has historically earned higher or lower income than the income reflected at the time of permanent orders and the duration and consistency of income from overtime or secondary employment;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The amount of temporary maintenance and the number of months that temporary maintenance was paid to the recipient spouse;
- The age and health of the parties, including consideration of significant health care needs or uninsured or unreimbursed health care expenses;
- Significant economic or noneconomic contribution to the marriage or to the economic, educational, or occupational advancement of a party, including but not limited to completing an education or job training, payment by one spouse of the other spouse's separate debts, or enhancement of the other spouse's personal or real property;
- Whether the circumstances of the parties at the time of permanent orders warrant the award of a nominal amount of maintenance in order to preserve a claim of maintenance in the future; and
- Any other factor that the court deems relevant.
These factors are still tempered by the requirement that court only award maintenance if it finds the person seeking maintenance lacks sufficient property to provide for his or her “reasonable needs” and is unable to support him/herself through appropriate employment or is the custodian of a child whose condition makes working inappropriate.