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Spousal Maintenance in a Rhode Island Divorce: Myth vs. Reality

Couples facing divorce may have misconceptions about the concept of spousal maintenance. At the outset, it is important to understand that each case is different, and maintenance orders will be highly fact-specific. However, understanding general misconceptions and the corresponding realities can assist you if you are facing family law issues related to spousal support in Rhode Island.

 Misconception #1: Spousal Support Is Always Permanent

Spousal maintenance, commonly referred to as alimony, is not necessarily permanent. There are, in fact, three different types of spousal maintenance in Rhode Island:

  • Temporary maintenance: This provisional order usually lasts for the duration of divorce proceedings only.
  • Short-term maintenance: This form of spousal support is designed to assist the dependent spouse for a limited period of time while securing employment or necessary training.
  • Long-term maintenance: This form of maintenance is reserved for cases in which the dependent spouse either has extraordinary needs or the marriage (and consequent economic dependence) has been for a very long time.

Both the amount and duration of maintenance payments depend on a variety of factors, such as the economic circumstances and needs of each party and the duration of the marriage.

Misconception #2: Prenuptial Agreements Determining Maintenance Amounts Will Always Be Enforced

A prenuptial agreement is generally a good idea for any couple getting married, as it allows them to negotiate the terms of a future dissolution in the event the marriage falls apart while they are still on good terms. Nevertheless, like with any contract, certain rules govern when a specific provision is enforceable and when it is not. Maintenance and distribution provisions will not be enforced in the following circumstances:

  • The agreement was not executed voluntarily.
  • The agreement was unconscionable when executed due to nondisclosure of the assets and liabilities of one of the parties
  • The marriage was annulled or voided.

If any of these circumstances take place, a court will revert to the default statutory principles in determining maintenance amounts. It should be noted that these reasons may be used to overturn provisions favorable to either party in principle. But due to the nature of bargaining power generally involved, they are more likely to be applied against the higher-earning party seeking to limit obligations.

Misconception #3: Every Divorce Involves Spousal Maintenance

Each case is different. In some cases, maintenance will be permanent and substantial. In others, there may be no maintenance payments at all. Maintenance amounts and duration are determined by a number of factors, including:

  • The income of each party and the apportionment of the marital property
  • The needs of each party
  • The present and future earning capacity of each party
  • Impairment in earning capacity due to one spouse’s forbearance from working to be a homemaker
  • The time necessary for the dependent spouse to obtain training or employment needed to become financially independent
  • The marital standard of living
  • The duration of the marriage
  • The age and physical/emotional condition of each party
  • The tax consequences of property division for each spouse
  • Contributions and services by the dependent spouse
  • Any valid agreement of the parties
  • Any other equitable factor deemed by the court

In some cases, combinations of these factors may mean no spousal maintenance is ordered at all. In other cases, support may be lengthy and substantial. When both spouses are high earners, relatively young, and will not take long to get back on their feet, maintenance payments will likely be minimal, if at all. Where there was a lengthy marriage in which one spouse refrained from working to care for the home, support payments are likely to be larger and of longer duration. All of these factors are determined on the basis of a sliding scale.

Contact an Experienced Rhode Island Family Law Attorney

If you are going through a divorce, your life is already complicated and stressful enough. Even if you are in a relatively amicable divorce, it is unwise to attempt to iron out the details with the other party. The issues are complicated, and you may give up more than you are legally required to. Just because it is an amicable divorce does not mean that your interests and your spouse’s interests are aligned.

Contact the experienced and dedicated Rhode Island divorce attorneys at Kirshenbaum Law Associates today. Your economic future depends on getting a fair divorce settlement, and you already have enough to worry about. Cutting costs in the short term may hurt you in the long run. Let us handle the details and ensure that your interests are protected.

Call Kirshenbaum Law Associates at 401-467-5300 to schedule a confidential consultation