Maintenance vs. Alimony


I have some questions around alimony vs. maintenance.

  1. Are they the same thing or different?

I understand if one can prove adultery then alimony is not possible?

  1. If one proves adultery then is maintenance possible?

  2. Is there a worksheet similar to that for child support to calculate maintenance or alimony?

  3. What should one do to minimize the likelihood they will have to pay maintenance/alimony?

All advice is appreciated.


I believe “Maintenance” is like helping pay joint debts (mortgage, utilities) while you’re separated…waiting for those issues to be settled via ED. Alimony is a ‘support’ payment made to the dependent spouse for a determined length of time. Erin can clarify if I’m mistaken.

To prevent paying alimony, you pretty much have to be making the same amount of money salary-wise and NOT have committed adultry.

If your spouse is a dependent spouse, they will have a claim for alimony. If you had an affair, you COULD pay alimony (but not necessarily—especially if you make the same income).
If your SPOUSE had an affair…it bars them from receiving alimony, but you have to have proof of the affair.

There is no handy calculator for figuring up an amount. The courts look at income, bills, standard of living.


Spousal support is considered maintenance, and can be used interchangeably.
If the dependant spouse can be showed to have committed adultery, and the supporting spouse has not done so as well the dependant spouse’s infidelity is a bar to any alimony claim. If both parties can be shown to have committed adultery, the an award of alimony is at the discretion of a judge, he or she may or may not award alimony in that instance.
There are no calculators for alimony, essentially it is based on the dependant spouses need (shortfall in available funds) to maintain his or her standard of living enjoyed during the marriage, and the supporting spouses ability to pay.


one question? How is “supporting spouse’s ability to pay” determined? Does the judge look at his income and his bills? Does the judge look at the bills of the dependent spouse? I know that for children over 18, the parent can’t be made to pay, unless they agree to it in a separation agreement. But, as anyone with college children knows, not everything can be paid for with loans and financial aid. Can the spouse (the one who helps the college children) show that they are paying for health insurance for the college children and other expenses not met by financial aid.

If the standard of living was for the children to go to college and during the marriage no college fund was established as it was agreed that the parents would pay when it came time, how fair is it that the parent who is helping the college child not receive some “credit” for it?

Of note, supporting spouse committed adultery. Dependent spouse did not. Supporting spouse will not agree to supporting college children, but during the marriage he fully supported all children going to college and graduate school. Supporting spouse has advanced degree which his parents helped fund.


The judge will look at his income and his bills to determine his ability to pay. The judge will look at the dependent spouse’s income and bills. There is case law which states that a supporting spouse cannot be forced to pay alimony that will exceed his ability to pay. (e.g. If he makes $5000/mth, his current & reasonable expenses are $4000/mth, and the child support is $800/mth, alimony will not exceed $200.) Adultery is immaterial and will not change this, except that if he did commit adultery and can afford to pay it, some form of alimony payment will be mandated barring other evidence.

As far as the standard of living prior to divorce and college goes, you must remember that it costs more money to run two separate households than to run one. A family with two working spouses living under the same roof has more discretionary income than two single parents living in separate residences each incurring their own set of bills, especially with the tax structure set up to give more support to marrieds.

Circumstances change and while plans may have been made to completely support the children through college prior to divorce, that cannot be guaranteed after. Your world has changed, and now the situation is completely different. If the couple were still together and the husband had become disabled, you would not be able to afford college for the kids either.

It’s honorable to pay your kids way through college if you can, but if you can’t, one must remember that while college has become a necessity to get better paying jobs, children are quite capable of working a job themselves to supplement loans/grants and their living expenses. (I know, I worked and paid my way through an advanced degree myself with absolutely no help from either parent, not even food money. It wasn’t easy, but then again I learned more than from just books by doing it that way.) As far as receiving credit for supporting a child through college goes…if you can afford it, I believe that you may be able to write at least some of it off on your taxes. Check with an accountant, and they may be able to help you further.


thank you,

Yes, I realize circumstances change and my children will be better in the long run if they had to work their way thru college.

Just one other question - a little twist on this - just so I can understand fully and be prepared. To determine alimony amount the judge will look at MY income and needs to run the home for myself and the minor children (we will exclude any costs of college children). In regards to XH, will the judge look at HIS income and expenses alone to run his house and expenses for himself? He has remarried, and new spouse doesn’t work and at times her ADULT age children live with them.

When the judge looks at his expenses will he take into account he is supporting a spouse (who has the ability to work but doesn’t)? If so, why is it that I cannt show on my budget that I must help in some ways my 2 college children (and show, yes, they received financial aid and are working at jobs) who attend school fulltime. When we filled out financial aid this year (it is just one common form all colleges use) it determined that the parental contribution for each child of mine was 6500.

Just thought of that as a double standard. He is allowed in his expenses to show he supports a new spouse, but I cannot show I support 2 college children.

Another question? I do receive spousal support from the PSS order. Will that continue until the other side asks for it to be changed. I am happy with the amount, but afraid he will soon try to have it changed to a permanent order. Original order is 18 months old.


You will both file financial affidavits which show all of your income and expenses. Your ex’s expenses will be used to help evaluate his ability to pay. Of course any expenses that are inflated or seem to be unreasonable can be questioned, and reduced by the judge in order to free up funds for support. Your ex’s wife’s decision not to work is not a factor, and will not be considered.
Your expenses will be taken into account, so be sure to include the financial help you are giving your children.
As for your PSS, it will continue until the end date stated in the order, or until a determination of alimony is made.


My take on this is that expenses aren’t limited to mandatory ones, just “reasonable” ones, which includes discretionary expenses. The judge will make the determination as to what is reasonable and what isn’t, so put it all down. There’s nothing banning you from doing so.

Go to the site and read Publication 970 and anything else you can find on educational expenses and dependents. Get what help you can on your taxes for contributions made to your kids education. It might also be worth the money to talk to an accountant to educate you in deductions you may take and how you may structure things so that you can get more assistance in recouping what you’ve spent. A $150 spent in consultation might give you back a good $1,500.