August 8, 2013

Q: When Does “Permanent” in a Divorce Decree Not Mean Permanent?

Permanent-Marker_34538-480x360A:  When it appears in the phrase, “permanent spousal maintenance.”

Whenever a divorce decree includes an award of maintenance, I explain to my client that “permanent” means until the payor reaches normal retirement age and retires.  At that time, spousal maintenance normally ends.  Most often, “normal retirement age” means the age at which a person can collect full social security payment.

Given how much information people have to absorb during the divorce process and the stress they may be under, it is not surprising that receivers often don’t remember talking about this and so are shocked when the payments stop. Payors usually do remember, and payments, which are withheld from their paychecks, simply stop when the paychecks stop.

Today, I received one of those calls, fourteen years after the couple was divorced.  I explained that if the reason “permanent” maintenance stopped was the payor’s retirement, the receiver would be able to begin collecting the share of the payor’s retirement, which was given to the receiver in the divorce decree.  It may also be appropriate to check on Social Security benefits.

Mary Antonia WilmesABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mary Antonia Wilmes
Mary

Mary Antonia Wilmes’ career has been centered on families. She has been an attorney handling family law cases since 1985, has mediated family cases since 1993, and has handled collaborative cases since 2003. She is the mother of two and grandmother of six. Both Mary’s family and her clients continue to teach her how to best serve family members’ needs. Learn more about Mary at www.sagewoman.net. Learn more about Collaborative Law also known as Collaborative Practice or Collaborative Divorce at our MN Institute website and at our international organization’s website.

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