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How can I ensure I get a fair decision about spousal maintenance?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2023 | Divorce, Family Law

Spousal maintenance is the source of many disputes in numerous Mississippi divorces. Also referred to as alimony or spousal support, spousal maintenance consists of payments from one ex-spouse to the other. In these cases, the paying party may think the award is too much while the receiving party often says it is not enough.

In these cases, it is imperative to have a grasp of what the court considers when it makes its determination. This is true regardless of a person’s education, income, assets and life objectives.

Lump sum

People might function under the mistaken impression that spousal maintenance is some form of penalty for getting a divorce. Although that was the case many years ago, it is now based on the finances, the needs of both sides and what would be a fair outcome.

When the court decides on spousal maintenance, it can decide that the payments will be made periodically or in a lump sum. People need to be fully cognizant of what this entails and its potential consequences.

If the payment is made in a lump sum, it is a predetermined amount that the paying person makes to the receiving person. It does not necessarily need to be paid all at once, but the amount is set even if it is paid in installments.

For some, this arrangement is welcome, as they know the amount beforehand. However, it does not change and this could be challenging in several ways.

For example, it cannot be modified. In most states, spousal maintenance ends if the receiving person decides to remarry or lives with someone in a new relationship. That is generally not the case with a lump sum spousal maintenance order in Mississippi.

Likewise, other life changes are not reflected in the award. If, for example, either side comes into money, the lump sum remains in effect.

Periodic payments

Periodic payments are different. These are paid for a defined period with a multitude of factors considered as to its amount and duratio. It can be modified if the court decides it is reasonable to do so and it will cease upon the receiving party’s cohabitation or remarriage.

The court assesses each situation on its own merits. If a person who is getting spousal maintenance is going to school or receiving training to self-support, then this could impact how long they will receive the payments and its amount.

Spousal maintenance can be complex

In many instances, people make mistakes because they are unaware of how the process works.

Perhaps the spouses are on good enough terms that they can negotiate an amount that is agreeable to both and they settle on a fixed duration. Or they could be butting heads at every turn and need to go to court to try and reach a resolution. Regardless, having assistance with reaching a reasonable outcome can be hard and consulting with those who are experienced in all areas of family law is key.