Spousal maintenance (also known as alimony or spousal support) is a payment from one spouse to the other. The purpose is to minimize the change in the standard of living for both spouses established during the marriage. During a divorce or legal separation, either spouse may ask for maintenance from the other. The spouse who wants maintenance payments must ask for them before the divorce or legal separation is final.
There are two types of spousal maintenance: permanent (long term) or rehabilitative (short term). When one spouse asks for spousal maintenance payments, the court will look at the income, assets and reasonable needs of both spouses. The court will consider the following factors:
- length of marriage
- standard of living during the marriage
- income and resources of both spouses
- ability of each spouse to meet their reasonable needs
- potential earning capacity of the parent seeking maintenance
- age and physical and emotional condition of each spouse
- whether child support already includes money for the custodial parent
If the spouses can’t agree on spousal maintenance on their own, the court may order it only if one spouses has asked for it. The court will decide how much support is needed and for how long.
Spousal maintenance and property division is related, but different. Spousal maintenance can change over time. It is focused on the ability of each party to maintain their former standard of living regardless of fault in the breakup of the marriage. Property division will be decided at the time of the divorce and will not be changed after that. The court can consider domestic violence or other bad behavior when deciding a fair division of property.
You can read more about spousal maintenance on the Vermont Judiciary website.