Alimony in Idaho may be granted by a court when a divorce decree is issued, or spouses may agree to alimony terms when creating their marital settlement agreement. Idaho courts mostly consider ordering alimony in cases of long-term marriages. As such, not every termination of marriage will warrant a spousal support award.
Read on to learn more about qualification for alimony, how it is paid, and terminated.
Qualifying for Alimony in Idaho
When an Idaho court issues a divorce decree, it may also give a maintenance order if it finds that the requesting spouse is in genuine financial need. An award for spousal support is based on various factors. Most importantly, the court considers whether the requesting spouse lacks the income and means to provide for their reasonable needs.
The court also considers the living standard established during the marriage and whether they can support themselves through employment. The court will decide the appropriate amount and period of time for spousal support, and this decision is based on the relevant factors, including:
- The financial resources of the requesting spouse
- The earning capacity and current income of both spouses
- The financial responsibility, including child custody and payment of child support
- The potential earning ability of each spouse, including skills, level of training, and job experience
- The ability of the spouse from whom alimony is sought to meet their needs while meeting those of the requesting spouse
- Length of absence from the workforce of the requesting spouse
- The time it would take the requesting spouse to acquire an education or vocational training to find appropriate employment
- The age and health (physical, emotional, and mental) of both spouses
- The length of the marriage
- The marital standard of living established by the spouses
- The fault of either party leading to divorce
The court will also consider the size of both spouses’ estates to determine the need for alimony and calculate alimony in Idaho. This includes property gained from the distribution of marital property.
Custodial parents that can’t support themselves even through employment due to the age or condition of a child will likely receive alimony. Such factors also influence the amount of alimony to be awarded.
Adultery and Spousal Maintenance Award
For at-fault divorce cases, the spouse who commits marital fault may be ordered to pay punitive alimony on top of any ordered support. In Idaho, marital fault may include infidelity or adultery, domestic abuse, or any other factor that is considered wrongdoing by one spouse to the other during the marriage.
In a 2013 case, the Idaho Supreme Court stated that marital fault, including adultery, is one of those factors that Idaho alimony laws expressly allow a trial court to take into account when making a maintenance award. It follows that a judge can consider evidence of adultery and how it impacts the marital estate.
A judge might increase the amount and duration of spousal maintenance owed by an adulterous spouse to the other spouse. If the obligee is the adulterous spouse, the judge might decrease the duration and amount of maintenance to be received by the requesting spouse.
An order for alimony has to be fair and reasonable. For that reason, an award can’t be focused only on adultery. If it occurred during the marriage, it is just one of the many factors that a judge will consider when making a decision. The judge must also consider the other relevant factors and give a fair award based on the totality of the evidence.
Types of Spousal Support Idaho Courts Can Award
A spouse who requests alimony upon divorce may be awarded temporary support, fixed-duration, or permanent spousal support. In determining the appropriate type of support, a judge must first establish if the requesting spouse needs financial support and the other spouse can pay.
– Temporary Spousal Support
Also referred to as pendente lite, temporary support is awarded to a spouse who needs financial support to meet their reasonable expenses, such as rent, mortgage, attorney fees, and utility bills during divorce proceedings. Obligation to pay temporary alimony automatically ends once the judge finalizes the divorce.
Calculation of the amount of temporary spousal maintenance mainly depends on the living standard of the spouses during the marriage. The court will also consider the ability of the requesting spouse to engage in any gainful employment before the finalization of the divorce.
– Fixed-Duration Spousal Support
This type of alimony is also known as rehabilitative alimony and is the most common type of spousal support in Idaho. It is awarded if the lower-earning spouse needs time and financial assistance to get an education or learn a skill to help them find appropriate employment. Rehabilitative spousal support is meant to help the requesting spouse become self-supporting.
Fixed-duration alimony terminates when the end date for maintenance reaches or upon the death of either spouse. This type of maintenance can also be terminated if the obligor can prove that the supported spouse has become independent. In such a case, a judge may end the maintenance obligation if they establish that it would be unfair for the supporting spouse to continue paying spousal support.
– Permanent Spousal Support
It is also referred to as long-term alimony. It is available to spouses who can’t engage in gainful employment due to advanced age, physical condition, or mental disability.
Permanent alimony ends upon the remarriage of the supported spouse or the death of either spouse.
Modifying Idaho Spousal Maintenance
Alimony agreements or court orders can be modified unless spouses had earlier agreed that the support agreement is non-modifiable. The spouse requesting modification of spousal maintenance has to show a substantial and material change of circumstances since the last agreement or decree.
A change in circumstances may include any of the following:
- Involuntary loss of employment
- Increased cost of living
- Diagnosis of a physical condition or mental disability
- Increase or decrease in income
- Remarriage or cohabitation of the supported spouse with another person
- Loss of a home
Paying Spousal Maintenance in Idaho
Idaho courts will mostly order a periodic payment of maintenance (bi-weekly, monthly, or semi-annually). An award for maintenance will come with an income withholding order, which directs the obligor’s employer to withhold a portion of their paycheck.
Unless divorcing spouses agree otherwise, Idaho law requires that all payments be paid through the Department of Health and Welfare. After the payments are made, the Department of Health and Welfare then notifies the supported spouse and sends the payment.
In some divorce cases, it might be appropriate for the supporting spouse to make a lump-sum payment. These payments are rare but appropriate where the obligor doesn’t have consistent income but has assets that can be used to make a full payment for spousal support.
Enforcing Alimony Payments in Idaho
It is not uncommon for supporting spouses to fall behind on alimony payments. The supporting spouse could have a problem making timely payments due to job loss or suffering a medical condition that affects their ability to work. It is also possible that the paying spouse is no longer willing to make alimony payments.
So, what should you do if your ex-spouse fails to make payments as ordered by the court?
If you’re not receiving payments as you should, make an effort to find out why this is the case. Where the paying spouse is genuinely incapable of making maintenance payments, you could work to draw up an agreement to reduce or suspend spousal support until your ex-spouse resumes work. Consider having an attorney draft your agreement to ensure that it is legally binding and that your rights are protected.
Deliberate Refusal To Pay Alimony
In some cases, the paying spouse simply tries to avoid making support payments. In such cases, you’ll have to go to court for help.
You will have to file a motion of contempt or enforcement with the court. This is legal paperwork that asks the judge to order your ex-spouse to make maintenance arrearages and keep up with future payments.
Idaho courts have wide discretion in deciding the punishment for a spouse who refuses to pay alimony.
Here are some remedies available to spouses who are seeking legal intervention.
In Idaho, a spouse who willfully disobeys a valid court order to pay maintenance may be punished by contempt. If a court finds a paying spouse in contempt, they will be ordered to pay the overdue alimony with a possible additional fine. If the obligor continues to disobey the court order, the judge may order fines or jail time.
– Income Withholding
An income withholding order requires the paying spouse’s employer to withhold the maintenance amount from the spouse’s paycheck and remit it directly to the receiving spouse. If the initial alimony order didn’t provide for income withholding and you’re not receiving alimony, you can ask for an income withholding order. This would ensure that the paying spouse makes future payments.
Income withholding may not be effective where the paying spouse is unemployed or self-employed. If your ex-spouse is self-employed, you can request the court to order them to open a trust account. You should access this account if you don’t receive maintenance payments as scheduled.
If you and your spouse are planning to call it quits on your marriage, you may agree on alimony or go to court for a decision.
Here are important things about spousal maintenance Idaho couples should keep in mind:
- An award for alimony depends on the requesting spouse’s need for support and the ability of the other spouse to pay
- Unless through an agreement, the court will decide the amount and duration of alimony based on various relevant factors
- A court can award temporary, fixed-duration, or permanent spousal support
- A maintenance order can be modified if there is proof of a substantial and material change of circumstances
- Maintenance payments can be periodic or one-time payments (lump sum)
- Spousal support terminates when the supported spouse remarries or cohabits with another person, either spouse dies, or the stipulated duration for alimony ends
While alimony can be contentious, the Idaho divorce statute provides the rules to be followed if spouses can’t come to an agreement. Idaho courts have the discretion in deciding the amount and duration of alimony, but this will depend on the requesting spouse’s need for support and the other spouse’s ability to pay.
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