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Unauthorized intervention by a nonparty in a lawsuit, in the form of financial or other support and assistance to prosecute or defend the litigation. The preservation of an asset or of a condition of property by upkeep and necessary repairs.

A periodic monetary sum paid by one spouse for the benefit of the other upon separation or the dissolution of marriage; also called Alimony or spousal support.

At Common Law the offense of Champerty and Maintenance arose when a stranger bargained with a party to a legal action, undertaking to pay for the litigation in exchange for a promise of a portion of the recovery. The common-law doctrines of champerty and maintenance were designed to stop vexatious and speculative litigation supported by officious intermeddlers (nonparties with improper motives). These common-law principles have been adopted in varying degrees in the United States, depending on the particular state.

The term maintenance is also used to describe the expenses of preserving property, which may be deductible according to the applicable state or federal tax laws. Maintenance expenses are typically recurring, with the goal of preserving the particular asset in its original condition, to prolong its useful life. Maintenance differs from a repair because a repair is an expenditure designed to return an asset to its normal operating condition.

In Family Law maintenance is often used as a synonym for spousal support or alimony, and the term is in fact replacing alimony. Traditionally, alimony was solely the right of the wife to be supported by the husband. In Orr v. Orr, 440 U.S. 268, 99 S. Ct. 1102, 59 L. Ed. 2d 306 (1979), the U.S. Supreme Court held that an Alabama statute (Ala. Code § 30-2-51 to 30-2-53 [1975]) that provided that only husbands could be required to pay alimony violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Under current law alimony may be payment by either the wife or the husband in support of the other.

The award of spousal maintenance is generally determined based on all or some of the following guidelines: the recipient's financial needs; the payer's ability to pay; the age and health of the parties; the standard of living the recipient became accustomed to during the marriage; the length of the marriage; each party's ability to earn and be self-supporting; and the recipient's nonmonetary contributions to the marriage.

The amount and length of spousal maintenance payments may be agreed to by the parties and approved of by the court, or may be set by the court when the issue is contested. Some states have adopted financial schedules to help judges determine the appropriate level of support. Although maintenance generally takes the form of periodic payments of money directly to the recipient, it can also constitute a payment to a third party to satisfy an obligation of the receiving spouse. Maintenance may be set in a predetermined amount, such as $1,000 a month, or it may be a fluctuating percentage, such as 25 percent of the payer's gross income.

Spousal maintenance may be temporary or permanent. The parties generally may adjust its amount at a future date by returning to court and reassessing the relevant criteria at that time. In some states the parties may forever waive their right to spousal maintenance by written agreement.

Spousal maintenance payments always cease upon the death or remarriage of the recipient. Some states have adopted laws that provide for the termination of maintenance when the payer can show that the recipient is living with another person as if married, but has not remarried because he or she wants to continue to receive maintenance payments. Maintenance also generally terminates upon the death of the payer, although a minority of states will grant the receiving spouse a claim on the estate of the paying spouse. Alternatively, many states require the paying spouse to carry insurance on his or her life, payable to the recipient spouse, in lieu of granting the recipient the right to make a claim on the payer's estate.

Spousal maintenance that is periodic and made in discharge of a legal obligation is included in the gross income of the recipient and is deductible by the payer. Other voluntary payments, made by one spouse to the other, are not treated the same way by the tax code.

Further readings

Cornick, Matthew S. 1995. A Practical Guide to Family Law. St. Paul, Minn.: West.




(Support of spouse), noun aid, alimony, allowance, assistance, financial backing, financing, legal assistance, legal support, means of subsistence, monetary help, necessaries, necessities of life, preservation, subsidy, subsistence, sustenance, upkeep, victus
Associated concepts: separate maintenance, support and maintenance


(Upkeep), noun care, carrying charge, conservatio, conservation, cost, disbursement, drain on reeources, expenditure, expense, outlay, overhead, repair, running expenses, salus, service
Associated concepts: ordinary maintenance and repair, reaaonable maintenance
See also: aid, alimony, assistance, conservation, continuation, ecology, help, livelihood, longevity, preservation, promotion, provision, safety, security, support, survival, sustenance


money payable under an order of court by one spouse to another or, on divorce, by one ex-spouse to another or by a parent to a child for that person's living expenses. For Scotland, see ALIMENT.

MAINTENANCE, crimes. A malicious, or at least, officious interference in a suit in which the offender has no interest, to assist one of the parties to it against the other, with money or advice to prosecute or defend the action, without any authority of law. 1 Russ. Cr. 176.
     2. But there are many acts in the nature of maintenance, which become justifiable from the circumstances under which they are done. They may be justified, 1. Because the party has an interest in the thing in variance; as when he has a bare contingency in the lands in question, which possibly may never come in esse. Bac. Ab. h.t. 2. Because the party is of kindred or affinity, as father, son, or heir apparent, or husband or wife. 3. Because the relation of landlord and tenant or master and servant subsists between the party to the suit and the person who assists him. 4. Because the money is given out of charity. 1 Bailey, S. C. Rep. 401. 5. Because the person assisting the party to the suit is an attorney or counsellor: the assistance to be rendered must, however, be strictly professional, for a lawyer is not more justified in giving his client money than another man. 1 Russ. Cr. 179. Bac. Ab Maintenance: Bro. Maintenance. This offence is punishable by fine and imprisonment. 4 Black Com. 124; 2 Swift's Dig. 328; Bac. Ab. h.t. Vide 3 Hawks, 86; 1 Greenl. 292; 11 Mass. 553, 6 Mass. 421; 5 Pick. 359; 5 Monr. 413; 6 Cowen, 431; 4 Wend. 806; 14 John. R. 124; 3 Cowen, 647; 3 John. Ch. R. 508 7 D. & R. 846; 5 B. & C. 188.

MAINTENANCE, quasi contracts. The support which one person, who is bound by law to do so, gives to another for his living; for example, a father is bound to find maintenance for his children; and a child is required by law to maintain his father or mother when they cannot support themselves, and he has ability to maintain them. 1 Bouv. Inst. n. 284-6.

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