A divorce is never comfortable or easy, but if you’re seeking or anticipating a divorce in or near the St. Louis area, you must be advised and represented by a Jefferson County divorce attorney who will protect your rights in a divorce and fight aggressively for your best interests.

After a divorce in Missouri, can the court order you to make spousal support (or “alimony”) payments? How is the dollar amount of spousal support payments determined by the courts? Is there any way to avoid having to make spousal support payments after a divorce?

If you are divorcing or considering a divorce – or even if you are already receiving or paying spousal support – keep reading to learn more about your spousal support rights and responsibilities after a divorce in Missouri.

How is Spousal Support Handled in Missouri?

During or after a divorce or a legal separation proceeding, a Missouri court may approve a spousal support order if the court determines that the spouse requesting the support is in need. Depending on the details of the divorce, spousal support may be permanent or temporary.

When determining whether or not to order spousal support, how much spousal support should be paid, and for how long those payments are to be made, the court will ask and seek answers to a number of questions about the divorcing spouses, including but not limited to:

  1. What was the couple’s standard of living during the marriage?
  2. What are the employment skills of each spouse and the current employment outlook?
  3. Is training or education required to acquire or maintain a spouse’s employment skills?
  4. Did one spouse sacrifice his or her own earning potential for the other?
  5. For how long did the marriage last, and what did each spouse contribute to the marriage?
  6. What are the marital and personal assets and properties of each spouse?
  7. What is the number of children, if any, and the custody and child support arrangement?

How is Spousal Support Calculated After a Divorce?

The calculation of the amount of spousal support to be paid after a divorce is made by the courts on a case-by-case basis, and if spousal support is awarded, the duration and amount of the spousal support payments is up to the judge’s discretion.

The length of time that spousal support must be paid usually hinges on the length of the marriage. A common standard is one year of support for every three years of marriage. Spousal support may be discontinued if the spouse who is receiving the support cohabits or remarries.

You may or may not be permitted to avoid making spousal support payments after a St. Louis-area divorce, but a Jefferson County alimony attorney will use every available legal tool to ensure that any spousal support payments you are ordered to make are fair, just, and reasonable.

What Can Happen if You Don’t Pay Spousal Support?

Failure to comply with a spousal support order issued by a Missouri court can be met with swift, harsh penalties, including a wage garnishment and even a contempt of court charge. You cannot ignore a spousal support order or stop paying spousal support if you have been ordered to pay.

If your life’s circumstances have changed and you can no longer pay the amount of spousal support that was ordered by the court, ask your Jefferson County divorce attorney to file a request with the court to modify your spousal support order.

How Can You Have a Spousal Support Order Changed?

To modify a spousal support order in Missouri, you and your attorney will be required to show the court “changed circumstances so substantial and continuing as to make the [original] terms unreasonable.” Modifications may be granted for reasons that include but are not limited to:

  1. a job promotion or demotion, or a job termination and unemployment
  2. a serious illness or injury
  3. a criminal conviction penalized with a jail or prison sentence
  4. the birth of a new child with another partner

If the ex-spouse requesting the modification of the spousal support order can prove that his or her circumstances have changed considerably, the court may order a decrease or increase in the amount of the payments, an extension or cessation of the payments, or other warranted changes.

What is the Best Way to Handle a Spousal Support Dispute?

When divorcing spouses can reach mutual agreements on matters like the division of property, spousal support, child custody, and child support, they can reduce their costs, speed up the divorce process, and avoid the acrimony and contention that surfaces in too many divorces.

Can you avoid a dispute over spousal support? Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements can lock in a spousal support arrangement that will be enforced by a Missouri court – provided that the agreement is prepared by a Missouri family law attorney and is fully compliant with state laws.

In many divorces, a Missouri alimony mediator helps divorcing spouses reach mutual agreements regarding spousal support and related matters through the mediation process, thus avoiding the need for a potentially acrimonious battle in the courtroom.

What Are the Basic Requirements for a Divorce in Missouri?

In order to divorce in Missouri, you must reside in the state for at least ninety days before you may file for a divorce. It takes at least thirty days after filing divorce papers for the court to finalize your divorce, although it’s often longer, and some divorce proceedings last for months.

Missouri, like all fifty states now, is a no-fault divorce state, so there is no need to prove that your spouse is responsible or “at-fault” for the dissolution of your marriage.

How much will your divorce cost? If the spouses fight over every detail, a divorce can be costly. Successful mediation can reduce that cost, but even then, the final cost of a divorce can’t even be guessed at until your lawyer has reviewed your circumstances and the details of your divorce.

What Will a Divorce Attorney Do for You?

Perhaps the most important job of a Jefferson County alimony attorney is to ensure that you are treated reasonably and fairly by the court when it comes to spousal support and every other aspect of your divorce proceeding.

Your divorce lawyer will protect your rights and your long-term best interests and bring your divorce proceeding to its best possible outcome. If you are divorcing, or if you are considering or anticipating a divorce, make the call now to a St. Louis-area family law attorney.