Support obligations arising from a divorce miniseries: alimony

Facing the possibility of a divorce can be daunting. There are so many uncertainties and questions to be answered: What is going to happen to the house? What is the custody arrangement for the children? How am I going to pay the bills without my spouse's income?

Fortunately, in Nevada, courts have the discretion to award spousal support, also known as alimony. NRS 125.150(1)(a) authorizes the court to award “just and equitable” alimony at the conclusion of a divorce case.

Alimony may either be awarded in a lump sum or through periodic payments over time, usually monthly payments. Alimony, when paid periodically, will generally be set to last a specific duration.

If no specific duration of alimony is ordered by the court, alimony will terminate automatically on the occurrence of either the death of either party or the subsequent remarriage of the party receiving the periodic alimony payments. However, alimony can also terminate in the event the recipient cohabitates with a significant other.

When establishing spousal support, the court will look at specific factors set forth in NRS 125.150(8). These include the following:

  1. The financial condition of each spouse;
  2. The nature and value of the respective property of each spouse;
  3. The contribution of each spouse to any property held by the spouses jointly;
  4. The duration of the marriage;
  5. The income, earning capacity, age and health of each spouse;
  6. The standard of living during the marriage;
  7. The career before the marriage of the spouse who would receive the alimony;
  8. The existence of specialized education or training, or the level of marketable skills attained by each spouse during the marriage;
  9. The contribution of either spouse as a homemaker;
  10. The ward of property granted by the court in the divorce, other than child support and alimony, to the spouse who would receive the alimony; and
  11. The physical and mental condition of each party as it relates to the financial condition, health and ability to work of that spouse.

The court will review each of these and based on the particulars of each case, will make an award.

Two of the factors the court must address when granting alimony are: whether the spouse that will be paying alimony received greater job skills or education during the marriage, and whether the spouse that will be receiving spousal support provided financial support to the other spouse when they were obtaining those skills.

For example, the court could determine that one spouse received an advanced degree during the marriage while the other spouse worked to support them, allowing the first spouse to make substantially more money than the second spouse.

Therefore, the court could award alimony to the lower-earning spouse to help him or her to maintain the standard of living they became accustomed to during the marriage.

In addition to the type of spousal support outlined above, NRS 125.150(10) also gives the court the discretion to order rehabilitative alimony, or support for the express purpose of increasing the recipient's education or training.

The purpose of rehabilitative alimony is to provide the lower-earning spouse an opportunity to get financially established through education or training. If the lower-earning spouse is able to increase their earning potential, then they will be less dependent on their spouse's alimony payments.

Generally, alimony which came from a decree of divorce, or an agreement ratified, adopted or approved in a decree, which provides for periodic payments is not modifiable as to alimony which has already accrued; however, upon a showing of a change in circumstances, a party may file a motion to change alimony which has not yet accrued.

When faced with a divorce, alimony is just one small, but important issue that must be resolved. It can be intimidating to face the prospect of a divorce alone. Partnering with a compassionate and knowledgeable attorney can help guide clients through this difficult time and achieve a fair and just result.

This article was written by Daniel S. Judd, an attorney with Allison MacKenzie in Carson City, which sponsors this content.


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