Here’s what you need to know about alimony in Maine.
- Who is Entitled to Alimony in Maine?
- Types of Alimony in Maine
- What Factors Are Used to Determine Alimony?
- Modifying or Terminating Spousal Support in Maine
- Enforcing Maine Alimony Awards
- Spousal Support and Taxes
- Maine Alimony FAQs
Who is Entitled to Alimony in Maine?
Alimony and spousal support are interchangeable terms in Maine.
The lower-earning spouse generally applies to the court for spousal support, which will be ordered by the judge if the applicant is eligible and the other spouse has the ability to pay.
The purpose of alimony is keep the marital standard of living intact as much as possible until the receiving spouse can become self-sufficient.
Types of Alimony in Maine
A spouse must request alimony at the beginning of the divorce proceedings. This is done in the Petition for Divorce or the Answer and Counterclaim for Divorce if the other spouse initially files the divorce action.
If a spouse doesn’t request alimony at the outset, they may be able to request it later by asking the court to permit them to amend the Petition or Answer.
After the spouse petitions the court for alimony, both spouses will be required to submit a Financial Statement that will detail the spouse’s current finances, including:
- Real estate
- Income statements
- Life insurance information
- Bank statements
- Household expenses
- Any other relevant financial information
The Financial Statement must be complete and accurate because this is considered a court document, and misleading or incomplete information may be construed as fraud.
There are five types of spousal support that courts can award in Maine.
Interim spousal support
Interim spousal support may be awarded to cover living expenses while a divorce is in progress. When the divorce is finalized, the interim support ends and it may be replaced with a longer-term support order.
Transitional or “rehabilitative” support
Transitional support provides financial support to help a spouse to transition to single life. Transitional support can give a spouse time to gain new employment skills, academic qualifications, or other rehabilitative programs before they can re-enter the workforce and become self-sufficient.
Reimbursement support is uncommon because a partner is usually reimbursed through the marital estate during property division. Reimbursement support is a payment usually awarded under two possible scenarios:
- A spouse’s financial misconduct during the marriage such as using marital funds for gambling or while in an adulterous relationship
- Repayment for a spouse’s contributions to the education or career of the other spouse during the marriage
This support is awarded only for marriages that last longer than 10 years in Maine and only if the lower-earning or unemployed spouse cannot become financially independent due to age or health issues.
It is awarded for a period that does not exceed half the length of the marriage. For example, if a marriage lasted 14 years, a spouse may be eligible for seven years of general support.
Judges employ nominal support, a strategy where a small sum (as little as $1 in some cases) is awarded to a spouse. That allows the judge to revisit the support order at a later date to make a modification if required by the circumstances.
How is alimony paid?
Alimony payments are usually made in monthly installments. To ensure timely payment, a judge may order income withholding with the support order. This means that the payor’s employer deducts support payments directly from paychecks and sends funds to the state’s spousal support agency to forward to the intended recipient.
Lump-sum alimony payments from the marital assets may be awarded as spousal support, though this is much rarer. It is common when the paying spouse is self-employed and does not receive a regular income or when there are significant assets and the spouses do not want to enter into an extended payment schedule.
Read More: How to File for Divorce in Maine
What Factors Are Used to Determine Alimony?
Maine courts do not use a formula when calculating alimony. They have broad discretion to decide if alimony is appropriate, how long, and in what amount. Each case is decided on its own merits.
To guide judges, the court uses three primary considerations.
- A statutory list of factors: the judge must consider several factors outlined in the Maine statutes.
- Standard of living: the quality of life/lifestyle expected during the marriage
- Custodial status: if the children live with the recipient of spousal support, a higher spousal support amount may be awarded.
Separating couples in Maine are not required to use courts to determine alimony agreements. They can reach a spousal support order on their own and present it to the court for approval.
If a judge approves it, the divorce decree will be issued, and the agreement will be legally binding.
This is only the case sometimes. Instead, a judge will use several statutory factors to help reach a fair and just alimony agreement. Those factors include:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and physical and mental health of both parties
- The earning abilities of both spouses after the divorce, taking into account education, training, skills and qualifications, job prospects, and employment history
- The present incomes of both spouses
- The pensions, retirement, and health insurance benefits due to each spouse
- The division of property made during the divorce and its tax consequences
- The standard of living to which the spouses are accustomed
- The primary custodian of the children, whether child support has been awarded, and the age of the children
- Contributions made by each spouse to the marriage, the home, and the family life
- Contributions made by one spouse to the other’s career advancement
- Economic misconduct that reduced the marital assets
Read More: 50 Ways to Prepare for Divorce
Modifying or Terminating Spousal Support in Maine
If you were awarded spousal support before October 1, 2013, the judge may modify the order if the judge believes that fairness requires it to be changed and there is nothing specifically written into the order that says it cannot be changed or modified.
If you were awarded spousal support on or after October 1, 2013, the judge can change the award if the judge believes that fairness requires it to be changed and there is a substantial change in financial circumstances.
Judges can create, modify, or enforce a spousal support award while a divorce action is pending or while a divorce order is being appealed.
When modifying spousal support, the requesting party must demonstrate a substantial and continuing change of circumstances that would warrant a change to the existing order. For example, this might include extended unemployment, a promotion that results in a significant rise in income, or long-term illness or disability.
Spousal support ends when one of the spouses passes away or if the recipient remarries or cohabits in a mutually supportive relationship for at least 12 consecutive months.
Enforcing Maine Alimony Awards
Spousal support is a court order, and as such, the court has the power to ensure terms of the order are followed. When a spouse falls behind in making alimony payments this is known as alimony arrears.
Failure to pay spousal support as ordered can result in the paying spouse being held in contempt of court. The court can impose fines, garnish wages, assess court costs, and in rare cases sentence the non-paying spouse to jail time. You may also be subject to a lien on your property or bank accounts or other similar enforcement measures.
Spousal Support and Taxes
Due to recent changes in Federal laws, the payer cannot deduct support payments under a divorce or separation instrument executed after 2018. These payments are also not included as taxable income for recipients.
The same is true of alimony paid under a divorce or separation instrument executed before 2019 and modified after 2018 if the modification expressly states that the alimony isn’t deductible to the payor spouse or included in the income of the recipient spouse.
Taxpayers who pay alimony under a divorce agreement executed before 2019 can deduct those payments from taxes when the following criteria are met:
- The recipient must be a spouse or former spouse
- There must be a written divorce or separation instrument
- Alimony must be made with cash payments (such as checks and money orders)
- Maintenance does not continue after the recipient dies
- The parties must live apart, residing in different households
- The parties must file separate tax returns (they cannot file a joint return and claim the alimony deduction)
- The court-ordered payment of alimony cannot state that payments are not deductible
Maine Alimony FAQs
Is alimony gender neutral?
Yes. A man or a woman can request and receive alimony.
Can a prenuptial agreement waive alimony in Maine?
Divorce laws in Maine allow spouses to include modification clauses or for the elimination of spousal support in prenuptial or postnuptial agreements. A valid prenuptial agreement will control the terms of alimony in a divorce.
What is alimony mediation?
If there is a dispute regarding alimony or other parts of a divorce, a judge may order mediation or a couple may voluntarily opt for mediation over litigation. Doing so gives the spouses more control over the process and can save a lot of money in court costs and legal fees.
Mediation with a neutral, trained mediator is generally quicker, less adversarial, and less expensive than litigation.
Is marital fault considered in Maine alimony?
Maine does not consider marital fault when determining alimony payments. This means that divorces considered “at-fault” due to cheating or infidelity, abuse, or other factors do not affect the calculation of alimony payments. However, if a spouse used marital assets during the course of at-fault behavior, then this is considered by the court and may result in the other spouse receiving a larger alimony settlement.