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Alimony is known as Spousal Maintenance in Montana. Spousal Maintenance is the payment from one spouse to another spouse either on a temporary or permanent basis. Spousal Maintenance is intended to allow a spouse to maintain the same type of lifestyle or standard of living that he or she enjoyed during the marriage.

Typically, in marriages in which both spouses work, and earn fairly comparable incomes, Spousal Maintenance will not be an issue. Under such a scenario, absent other extenuating circumstances, it is unlikely the court will award Spousal Maintenance. On the other hand, a stay at home mom, with no marketable skills, who worked to put her husband through a professional career and later stayed at home to raise the children, while her husband advanced his career will be a good candidate for Spousal Maintenance. However, receipt of maintenance under this example is not a slam dunk. The court reviews each application for maintenance on a case by case basis, and looks at a variety of factors.

How is Spousal Maintenance determined?

If you and your spouse can agree on an amount of Spousal Maintenance and the duration of the payments, a court will likely adopt the amount that is agreed upon. However, if you and your spouse disagree about Spousal Maintenance, the court will decide the amount and duration based upon various factors.

In Montana, courts look at the following factors when deciding whether or not to award Spousal Maintenance:

  • Whether or not the spouse lacks sufficient property to provide for the spouse’s reasonable needs;

  • Whether or not the spouse is able to be self-supporting through appropriate employment;

  • Whether or not the spouse is the custodian of a child whose condition or circumstances make it appropriate that the custodian not be required to seek employment outside of the home;

  • The financial resources of the spouse seeking maintenance;

  • The time necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party seeking maintenance to find appropriate employment;

  • The standard of living established during the marriage;

  • The duration of the marriage;

  • The age and physical and emotional condition of the spouse seeking maintenance; and

  • The ability of the spouse from whom maintenance is sought to meet the spouse’s own needs while meeting those of the spouse seeking maintenance.

Will a court award me Spousal Maintenance because my spouse wanted the divorce?

In and of itself, it does not matter who wants the divorce. It does not matter who was at fault. For example, the court is not going to award Spousal Maintenance just because the other spouse was unfaithful. The court will not consider fault when deciding upon maintenance, but will look at the factors listed above in the previous question.

What type of Spousal Maintenance is available?

Spousal Maintenance can be broken down into several categories which include the following:

  • Temporary Maintenance: Temporary Maintenance is support that one spouse pays to the other while the divorce proceeding is pending. This Temporary Maintenance is intended to allow that spouse to maintain a similar lifestyle or standard of living that was maintained prior to the couple’s separation.

  • Permanent Maintenance: Permanent Maintenance is somewhat of a fiction. This is the maintenance that is ordered once the divorce is finalized, but it can be modified under Montana law, and in some circumstances, it can be discontinued altogether.

  • Rehabilitative Maintenance: This is the type of maintenance that continues for a period of time so the spouse who is receiving the maintenance can be rehabilitated or gain further education to enter the work force and become self-supporting.

Are there any circumstances when my so-called Permanent Maintenance will end?

Yes there are. Under Montana law, if either party experiences a change of circumstances that are so substantial and continuing as to make the terms of the order requiring Spousal Maintenance unconscionable, the court can amend the maintenance award or discontinue it altogether. Unfortunately, this decision is made on a case by case basis, and there is no bright line rule as to when such a change of circumstances is so significant as to trigger an amendment of the order requiring the payment of Spousal Maintenance.