“Alimony: The ransom the happy pay to the devil.” -- H. L. Mencken
Alimony. Palimony. Spousal support. Separate maintenance. The more numerous the names for a legal concept, the safer it is to assume that it is a highly contested and acrimonious thing. And nothing proves that better than the act of paying an ex-spouse a monthly gratuity for the privilege of being apart, making it a perpetual wellspring for all manner of bitterly biting – and bitingly bitter – humor.
In many ways, then, Kansas’s law of spousal support lets down expectations set by Hollywood and wider pop culture. As it merely seeks to equitably and efficiently address the very real reasons why spousal support evolved at common law in the first place.
A Square(r) Deal on Spousal Support
Spousal support is the payment of monies from one spouse to another for a fixed period of time, for the purpose of easing the transition from one household into two. A court may order spousal support for a period of either the duration of the marriage or up to 121 months, with the option to renew it out for up to another 121 months, whichever is lesser. Spousal support does not require proving a would-be payor’s fault or bad conduct, though a court may consider such in determining whether spousal support is appropriate.
The granting of spousal support is based upon the interplay of one spouse’s need for support and the other spouse’s ability to pay. (A spouse’s “need” for alimony is, in older literature, phrased in the language of a spouse’s “dependency” on the other spouse.) No spousal support can be granted without one spouse demonstrating need of it, and it can only be ordered to the extent that the other spouse has the ability to pay. The court is obliged to consider the overall financial condition of both parties, and the appellate bench has held that the factors to be considered are broadly similar to those in determining marital property division. The amount of monthly spousal support is usually a percentage (between 20% and 50%) of the difference between what the payor-spouse earns and the payee-spouse earns.