Spousal Support

The spousal support (formerly known as, but no longer used in legal parlance, “alimony”) statute was revised in 2000, defining various types of spousal support, including general, transitional, reimbursement, nominal, and interim support. There is a rebuttal presumption that general spousal support may not be awarded if the parties were married for less than ten years as of the date of the filing of the action for divorce. There is also a rebuttal presumption that general support may not be awarded for a term exceeding one-half the length of the marriage if the parties were married at least ten years, but no more than twenty years. In addition, the Court, when granting, denying, or modifying spousal support, must state 1) the type of support being awarded, the method of payment, the term and limitations imposed, if the support award is not subject to future modification, and the factors relied upon the Court in arriving at its decision to award, or deny, spousal support.

The statute still identifies a number of factors the Court must consider with determining an award of spousal support: 1) the length of the marriage; 2) the ability of each party to pay; 3) the age of each party; 4) the employment history and employment potential of each party; 5) the income history and income potential of each party; 6) the education and training of each party; 7) the provisions for retirement and health insurance benefits of each party; 8) the tax consequences of the division of marital property, including the tax consequences of the sale of the marital home, if applicable; 9) the health and disabilities of each party; 10) the tax consequences of an spousal support award; 11) the contributions of either party as homemaker; 12) the contributions of either party to the education or earning potential of the other party; 13) economic misconduct by either party resulting in the diminution of marital property or income; 14) the standard of living of the parties during the marriage; and 15) any other factors the Court considers appropriate. Instead of spousal support, the Court may order either party to pay a specific sum to the other party. It is important to note that the Court cannot expect a spouse to live on marital property set aside to him or her in the divorce. In other words, an award of spousal support should be based on the factors outlined in the statute and should not be modified based on how much property the spouse received through the divorce process.

As is the case with the division of marital property, fault is not a statutory consideration when determining the appropriateness of spousal support. However, the Court can consider any financial misconduct of a spouse when determining an appropriate award of spousal support.

Another interesting aspect of Maine law is that the Court, at any time, may alter or amend a decree for spousal support or specific sums when it appears that justice requires it, except that a Court cannot increase the spousal support if the original decree prohibits an increase. In contrast, even if a settlement agreement prohibits spousal support from being decreased, the Court still has power to decrease spousal support under extraordinary circumstances. A non increase clause is enforceable, but a non decrease clause is not.