Criteria for Maintenance/Alimony Award
In divorce proceedings in Missouri, courts have discretion in awarding maintenance — which are payments made from one spouse to another spouse to enable the spouse receiving support to meet his/her reasonable needs. Numerous factors are considered in awarding maintenance and the court has some flexibility in deciding how to structure the maintenance (i.e., lump sum, payments for a limited period of time, payments indefinitely, etc.).
Before a court can order maintenance, though, two (2) requirements must be met: the spouse seeking such an award (1) lacks sufficient property, including marital property granted to him/her, to provide for his/her reasonable needs; and (2) is unable to support himself/herself through appropriate employment.” Creech v. Creech, 992 S.W.2d 226, 230 (Mo. Ct. App. 1999); see also section 452.335.1 “Maintenance payments must be limited to the needs of the party requesting support.” Nichols v. Nichols, 14 S.W.3d 630, 637 (Mo. Ct. App. 2000).
“Reasonable needs” is a relative term. Brueggemann v. Brueggeman, 551 S.W.2d 853, 857 (Mo. Ct. App. 1977). The marital standard of living is one factor to be considered in evaluating reasonable needs. Practically, the best evidence is what the parties together have determined to be their reasonable needs. Id.
For item (2), even if a spouse relied upon the other spouse for monetary support, he/she has a duty to attempt to become self-sufficient through employment. Ansley v. Ansley, 15 S.W.3d 28, 32 (Mo. Ct. App. 2000). The employment should be appropriate to the skills and interests of the spouse seeking it. Brueggemann, 551 S.W.2d at 858. Courts generally have awarded maintenance in situations where the party seeking it, has devoted a majority of his/her life to the household and maternal tasks, thereby, forfeiting the opportunity to develop occupational skills, or where the requesting party requires further education or training to support himself/herself.
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