One of the thorniest issues in many divorces is the amount and duration of spousal support. This is an area where positions often are apart by wide margins; the receiving spouse believes the fair amount is a lot for a long time, and the paying spouse often believes it should be somewhere between nothing and very little for a short period of time. Because of the gap, the legislature has been experimenting with a formulaic approach to spousal maintenance to eliminate the disparities in expectations and provide a predictable outcome. The results, which were first applied only to temporary support, have been extremely controversial. Particularly in high-income cases, the formulaic approach has often proved unfair and unworkable. It is the expectation of most that there will be Maintenance Guidelines by statute. Whether and to what extent they will be applied to high-income cases remains to be seen.
Spousal support can be temporary or permanent. When ruling on a spousal support case, a judge considers numerous factors that are set forth in the statute. Permanent support can end on the expiration date noted on the order when either party dies, or when the receiving spouse remarries. Spousal support can be deductible to the Payer or not depending on how it is negotiated or argued. The variables are many and the structure requires knowledge and imagination.
Through our involvement in Bar Associations, our firm has participated in the formulation—and opposition—to some of these proposals. In the cases we handle, we have been arguing the issues that impact on the decisions being made regarding the structure and application of these guidelines.