With more and more households having two incomes, the issue of spousal support may not make the news as frequently as in previous generations. Spousal support—commonly referred to as alimony—however, may be an important issue in many divorce proceedings. Missouri essentially has three general types of spousal support:

  • Limited duration
  • Open-ended spousal support
  • Contractual support

The third form of support—contractual—is generally an issue for the parties and not something a family court judge orders.

What happens when one party is granted support under specified terms in a limited or open-ended form of spousal support, and circumstances change down the road?

A recent question hit an East Coast newspaper that posed this kind of question. Typically, a lawyer’s answer to a generic question may be something like, “It depends.” In the recent newspaper entry, a person claims that his ex was granted support under that state’s laws for one year—or until she became employed. He claims that she got a job a month after the divorce, but was fired about six months later (claims she denies).

Obviously, a dispute over spousal support followed the divorce.

In Missouri, limited duration spousal support contemplates that a future event will occur that will end the need for the support to continue. Similarly, open-ended support orders generally include a provision to end the alimony payment should the recipient of the support later marry.

The idea of spousal support is available under Missouri family law when one spouse is not able to provide for his or her needs after the marriage breaks down. But, enforcing or modifying a current spousal support order may become appropriate when the terms of the order are not properly followed, or when circumstances arise that make continuing enforcement unjust.

Notably, because of the nature of a contractual support order, modification is generally unavailable without an agreement between the parties to alter the contract.

Source: Boston Herald, “Lies come with cost in alimony case,” Gerald Nissenbaum, November 24, 2013