It is a common occurrence that one spouse has significantly greater income and earning potential than the other spouse. An award of spousal maintenance, formerly known as "alimony," is a common tool that the law allows to equalize somewhat the incomes of divorcing parties, at least in part.
Kansas law does not recognize a concept of maintenance based on maintaining a lifestyle "according to what [a lower income spouse] has grown accustomed."
Rather, the law requires a showing of:
- Need of one party for spousal maintenance
- The ability of the other party to pay
Technically, if one of the two parts of the legal requirement for a maintenance award is missing, the court must decline the request for spousal maintenance.
Calculating Spousal Maintenance in Kansas
As a practical matter, local courts have adopted mathematical formulas, or "guidelines" for calculation of spousal maintenance. This usually is a combination of a calculation based on the difference in the parties' incomes and the length of time the parties were married. The benefits of this approach are obvious—the judge will treat every request for maintenance in the same or similar manner, and the parties' attorneys generally are able to predict what the judge will award and can advise their clients accordingly.
Unfortunately, this approach fails to observe the individual requirements of any particular case. Overall financial and equitable circumstances can vary greatly from case-to-case. The particular needs and requirements of any particular situation will often get lost in a formulaic, purely mathematical approach to spousal maintenance.
When the Formula Does Not Work for Your Family
Often times the formula doesn't make much sense. Sometimes the "disadvantaged" spouse has excellent income or earning potential and does not really have a "need" for spousal maintenance, as required by law. Other times, the higher-earning spouse does not actually have enough disposable income to be paying maintenance to anyone—in other words, he or she doesn't have the "ability to pay," as also required under the law before a judge can award maintenance. Finally, sometimes the formulaic approach is too low in light of the need of a disadvantaged spouse and perhaps the sacrifices he or she has made throughout the marriage.
Nevertheless, because both judges and lawyers are so accustomed to approaching spousal maintenance in this way, it can be a very difficult task to persuade the judge (and opposing counsel, if they are trying to settle the case short of trial) that he should forego the formulaic approach and to closely examine the specific facts of your particular case.
For example, the new tax bill passed December 2017 will have significant ramification on spousal maintenance and taxes. This could make a difference depending on your specific situation.
Retain an Johnson County Spousal Maintenance Lawyer
If you are facing a divorce in which you anticipate that spousal maintenance will be a large or perhaps a contentious issue, you need an experienced divorce lawyer to evaluation your case.
Contact our firm today to discuss your particular situation with a divorce lawyer.
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