Maintenance, also known as alimony, is a sum of money given from one partner to the other to provide for the other partner’s support during or after the divorce. When there is a significant difference in the income and earning potential of the parties, or if one party has been out of the workplace for a period of time, the party who earns the higher income may be required to contribute to the other party’s expenses. The length of the civil union is also a consideration when determining maintenance; longer civil unions are more likely to result in maintenance payments between the parties.
The first step in considering whether maintenance is appropriate is to determine the needs of each party. This is done by calculating the living expenses and income for each partner after the parties move into two separate households. Typically speaking, large income disparities are more likely to produce awards of maintenance. Divorcing partners must also consider the tax consequences of paying and receiving maintenance. For example, a high income earner may choose to take advantage of certain tax deductions available to the payor partner, thereby easing the financial strain of making maintenance payments.
Determining an appropriate maintenance award can be confusing. If maintenance is not awarded, it is typically waived forever, thereby preventing the waiving party from ever receiving maintenance from his or her former partner. Accordingly, it is important to consult with an attorney about any and all maintenance issues. Maintenance is typically finalized in the parties’ civil union settlement agreement, although it is possible to address the issue earlier in the case.