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Is spousal maintenance mandatory after divorce?

On Behalf of | Jun 17, 2024 | Divorce, Family Law |

Divorce significantly impacts the finances of both parties involved. Underscoring the implications of dissolving a marriage is crucial for establishing realistic post-divorce expectations. In Vermont, neither paying nor receiving spousal maintenance is automatic. A spouse must formally request it during the divorce proceedings, and even then, the court will assess several factors before making a decision.

How does the court decide?

The court will first determine if the requesting spouse genuinely requires support. The judge will examine whether:

  • The requesting spouse cannot support themselves through appropriate employment or is the custodial parent.
  • The requesting spouse lacks sufficient income or property to provide for their reasonable needs.

Should the court find alimony warranted, it then decides the amount and duration by considering various aspects of the marriage, such as:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • The income and financial resources of each spouse.
  • The standard of living during the marriage.
  • The ability of each spouse to meet their reasonable needs.
  • The potential earning capacity of the supported spouse.
  • The age, physical health and emotional state of each spouse.
  • The impact of inflation.

These criteria help the court determine not only the need for support but also whether it should be permanent (long-term) or rehabilitative (short-term).

Short-term support may suffice if the spouse is likely to become self-reliant after receiving the necessary training or education. Conversely, permanent spousal maintenance may be deemed necessary if the requesting spouse primarily was a homemaker, possesses limited earning capabilities or is unlikely to earn sufficient income to establish the same during the marriage.

Can couples set their own terms?

Divorcing couples may negotiate the terms of maintenance themselves. Given their deeper understanding of their circumstances, this choice allows them greater control over the divorce outcome. They can propose their agreement to the judge, who, if finding the terms fair to both parties, may be inclined to approve it.

Learning the details of divorce proceedings is a crucial step in managing its impact. Consulting with a family law attorney may provide the necessary guidance and support to overcome potential hurdles during this challenging time.