The Uncontested Divorce – Part 4 (Spousal Maintenance)

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Most uncontested divorces are not long on duration.  Less time married means less time to accumulate assets, debts and stuff (not to mention children).  Therefore, there are less potential issues to cause disputes if the marriage ends.  Conversely, most contested divorces involve long-term marriages; the long time spent together can make the break-up complicated and difficult.

Certainly there are case which buck this trend.  A couple married for decades may manage to part amicably, including amicable terms for their divorce.  And a couple married for a very short time may still have assets, debts or very young children to fight over.

Spousal maintenance (a/k/a alimony) is perhaps the most difficult issue in marriage dissolutions.  The variation, case by case, is wild and wide.  Property settlements tend to involve some semblance of an equal, or equitable, division of assets and/or debts.  Child support is often based on a statutory formula.  But spousal maintenance is subject to the court’s wide discretion based upon many statutory factors, and a lot of subjective judgment.

Cases in which neither party owes spousal maintenance most often involve three types of cases.  One, a short-term marriage.  Two, a break-up between two people whose earnings are pretty similar.  Or three, a divorce in which neither party earns a high enough income to have the ability to provide financial support to the other.

In order for a case to be truly uncontested, there needs to be no need for the divorce decree to provide spousal maintenance.  If there is the need to provide for spousal maintenance, then the parties need to address the tax consequences, the duration, whether the amount will step down over time, and various other issues.  It simply complicates things for one party to provide spousal support to the other party after the marriage is over.

The fact that there needs to be spousal maintenance does not mean that the couple’s divorce will be inevitably long and painful.  But it does rule out the prospect of proceeding with an uncontested divorce.


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