Maintenance, formerly known as alimony, is a subject that quickly stirs emotion. The person ordered to pay it often feels angry that they must continue to support their ex, and the person receiving it often feels justified that their ex wasn’t allowed to leave them high and dry. Either side you are on, it is important to understand in what situations maintenance is ordered, how much it will be, and for how long.
As of January 1 of 2015, there are guidelines for maintenance, meaning that if the court finds that maintenance is appropriate, the court must order maintenance in a certain amount absent certain exceptions.
Before we dive into the formula, let me mention that a good lawyer can always argue numbers no matter how cut and dry the situation may seem. A close look at the financials of each party is important to determining how to develop the most persuasive argument in favor of a party’s position.
Ok, so what’s the formula? Here it is, in all its glory:
The amount of maintenance under this paragraph (1) shall be calculated by taking 30% of the payor’s gross income minus 20% of the payee’s gross income. The amount calculated as maintenance, however, when added to the gross income of the payee, may not result in the payee receiving an amount that is in excess of 40% of the combined gross income of the parties.
(B) The duration of an award under this paragraph (1) shall be calculated by multiplying the length of the marriage by whichever of the following factors applies: 0-5 years (.20); 5-10 years (.40); 10-15 years (.60); or 15-20 years (.80). For a marriage of 20 or more years, the court, in its discretion, shall order either permanent maintenance or maintenance for a period equal to the length of the marriage.
Seeing it in action is more straightforward than reading the text above:
Ok, let’s assume Mary makes $100,000 per year, and John makes $20,000.00 year and that they’ve been married for 12 years, and the court finds that John is entitled to maintenance.
Mary is the payor (i.e. the person who pays), so we take 30% of her gross of $100,000, which equals $30,000; and we take 20% of the John’s income, which equals $4,000.
Next, we subtract $4,000 from $30,000, which gives us how much John is entitled to per year: $26,000. We then must determine whether or not this exceeds 40% of Mary’s income. Forty percent would be $40,000, so it does not.
Finally, we calculate the duration. Using the formula, we take the number of years the marriage lasted (twelve) and use the applicable factor of 0.6 (marriage of 10-15 years). Twelve * 0.6 equals 7.2. So, the maintenance of $26,000 per year will last for 7.2 years, that is, seven years and about two and half months. The maintenance will most likely be ordered to be paid out monthly.