Spousal Maintenance: Starting Now Until Retirement?

Part V: Spending and Saving

Suppose that in another divorce* the parties both have living needs of approximately $6,500. At the time of the divorce, the wife lived in the family home which had a mortgage of 250k. She was also driving a 5 year old Lexus SUV that had no debt.

Their divorce decree stated that the husband would pay spousal maintenance enough to meet their budgets and monthly living expenses. However, upon retirement in anticipation that both parties will be able to meet their needs with a social security income, spousal maintenance will be discontinued.

The husband, now retiring, wants to terminate his spousal maintenance. However, now the wife claims that her ongoing maintenance needs increased and her social security income is not enough.  The mortgage is now 400k, after being refinanced to pay for their children’s college tuition that the husband refused to pay. The wife also now pays $900 per month for her Range Rover. In addition, the wife also makes monthly payments on credit cards of $1,300 and currently pays $425 per month on her children’s college loans that she cosigned.

The husband’s income increased significantly after the marriage so that his assets are now valued at $300,000,000.  Will the husband prevail in trying to terminate his spousal maintenance?

In the Snyder case the wife sought to increase her spousal maintenance award based on the husband’s increased income and the fact that she was unaware of the tax consequences of her award. The Appeals Court there stated that “increased earnings of the husband, standing alone . . . cannot be a basis for an increase in alimony.

In the Cisek case the wife brought a motion for increased spousal maintenance based primarily on the fact that the husband’s income had increased by 429% since the divorce.  The Court of Appeals denied this request stating that “ a favorable change in an ex-spouse’s income, absent an ‘unreasonable and unfair’ showing of proof, does not by itself constitute a divorce decree”.

SUMMARY

Voluntary increases in the standard of living are not necessarily reasonable living needs. An increase in the obligor’s income does not constitute a change in circumstances that would warrant an increase in spousal maintenance.

*Click here to see the first part of this Spousal Maintenance: Starting Now until Retirement? series.