When it comes to spousal maintenance, the judge has the final say if the couple takes their divorce to court. If they can negotiate matters on their own, though, they may be able to come up with an amount that they both feel is fair. However, it must be reasonable, or else the judge may not sign it.
By reviewing the factors that the judge considers, the couple may be able to come up with an acceptable spousal maintenance agreement.
Each spouse’s current, future and potential earning capacity affects whether a judge will decide one of them should receive maintenance. If one has a professional career and the other has been a homemaker, for example, the differences in income may be drastic. Often, maintenance is temporary, providing financial support and assistance while one spouse obtains education and training that allows him or her to become self-supporting.
A health condition that makes it difficult for one spouse to work or a child with special needs may also affect how much maintenance someone needs. A spouse may need support if he or she is staying in the house with the children but cannot make the payments. In some cases, a judge may balance needs such as this through the division of assets or a lump sum payment rather than ongoing support.
While being the breadwinner may cause a spouse to feel that his or her contributions were more significant, income is not the only contribution a judge considers. Providing support while the spouse obtained an education to become the breadwinner could be just as significant. Home management is also a relevant and important contribution to a marriage that may affect how much maintenance is appropriate.