Perceptions about spouses and the role of spouses during and after marriage have changed over the years. Their changing roles have also impacted whether spouses still must pay alimony, now known as spousal support, after a divorce in Vermont.
Spousal support rights
Courts may order a spouse to pay spousal support if the dependent spouse has inadequate income or property to support their reasonable needs and is unable to support themselves by working. Support may be justified if the dependent spouse is the custodian of their child. Reasonable needs are based on the couple’s shared standard of living during marriage.
Courts may order compensatory, long-term maintenance or short-term rehabilitative maintenance payments. Courts decide whether maintenance should be awarded, the type to award and how much should be awarded in each case. Short-term maintenance may be awarded, for example, to allow the other spouse to finish training or education to resume their career.
Long-term maintenance may be awarded if there is a significant difference between the spouses’ incomes, there was a long marriage where the dependent spouse was a stay-at-home parent or homemaker or the dependent spouse cannot earn enough to live in the lifestyle established during their marriage.
Spousal support is unavailable after the final divorce if it was not awarded during the time of the divorce. Courts can later modify spousal maintenance that was awarded in the final divorce order.
When ruling on spousal maintenance, courts consider the following:
- The dependent spouse’s available income and property, including property that was awarded to that spouse.
- The spouse’s ability to meet their needs, including child support that was awarded.
- The time and money the spouse needs for the training or education needed for appropriate work.
- Their standard of living during marriage.
- The marriage length.
- Each spouse’s age and physical and emotional condition.
- The paying spouse’s ability to meet their reasonable needs while paying the other spouse’s needs.
A court will not change a final order unless there is a real, substantial and unanticipated change of circumstances. Minor or expected changes do not justify modifications to the order.