Generally, when maintenance (also known as alimony) is awarded to a former spouse, the amount is non-modifiable. However, certain circumstances will allow modification.
Recently in Missouri, Husband was ordered to pay Wife $1,875 per month plus 35% of all commissions and bonuses for maintenance. At the time of divorce, Husband was making $260,000 per year. A year later, Husband lost his high-paying job and started working at a job with a $50,000 salary. Husband’s income decreased and his debt increased. The court modified maintenance payments to a flat amount of $875 per month. At the time of the divorce, Wife was unemployed. When the maintenance was modified, her annual income was approximately $24,000 from part-time employment. Wife has a bachelor’s degree and no known medical issues. However, no evidence showed Wife ever applied for a full-time job. The Eastern District of Missouri Court of Appeals upheld the maintenance modification.
Changes in circumstance must be sufficiently substantial and continuing to make the original maintenance award unreasonable. Courts not only consider the income of each spouse, but also their monthly expenses and debt. Husband’s significant decrease in income coupled with his growing debt made the original maintenance payment unreasonable. Additionally, maintenance is not intended to support the dependent spouse for life. The receiving spouse still has a duty to become self-supporting, including seeking full-time employment. In other words, the receiving spouse should not benefit from not doing anything to better their situation. Courts will not enforce unreasonable maintenance payments when income has significantly changed, especially when the receiving spouse has the ability to better their own financial circumstances but refuse to do so.
If you are concerned about maintenance, contact our office for a consultation.