Alimony in Indiana is an outdated concept – it is commonly referred to as spousal maintenance in the state. A maintenance award in Indiana is limited and only reserved where one spouse genuinely needs the financial help of the other spouse. One of the reasons for awarding maintenance is to allow a spouse to maintain the lifestyle they had in their marriage. This article highlights some laws regarding maintenance in Indiana and issues you should know about spousal support.
How To Calculate Alimony in Indiana
There is no calculator or formula to calculate alimony in Indiana. Judges have full discretion to decide how much to award and for how long, depending on the circumstances. Before deciding “how much” and “how long,” a judge will first determine whether a spouse qualifies for spousal maintenance.
– Amount of Alimony
To order maintenance and alimony amount, a judge will determine whether any of the following issues apply:
- The requesting spouse has physical or mental incapacity that permanently deters them from becoming self-supporting.
- The requesting spouse lacks sufficient personal or marital property to meet their financial needs.
- The spouse is the custodial parent of a child with a special need due to physical or mental illness, making it impractical for that spouse to work.
- The court determines that the requesting spouse needs rehabilitative maintenance to help them acquire education or training to find appropriate employment and achieve financial independence.
Usually, judges don’t factor in adultery in divorce cases. However, they can consider marital misconduct like infidelity when making decisions regarding spousal maintenance.
Previously, the Indiana Supreme Court decided that judges could consider marital misconduct in alimony issues provided they don’t apply the laws unjustly by discriminating against a spouse’s gender.
A judge has the power to order compensation if the cheating spouse used marital assets to pay for the affair. If the cheating spouse was due to receive spousal maintenance, then the judge may reduce the amount and duration of maintenance.
When a judge determines that maintenance is appropriate due to any of these factors, they will go ahead and determine the appropriate amount of maintenance. This, of course, will be based on the financial ability of the other spouse to pay while meeting their needs.
Judges will also consider the requesting spouse’s reasonable needs, as well as the standard of living of the spouses during their marriage.
Courts in Indiana will award maintenance such that the amount is just enough to support a spouse’s reasonable needs and allow them to enjoy the standard of living they had during the marriage.
– Duration of Alimony
Spousal maintenance Indiana is mainly awarded for returning the supported spouse to a position where they can financially support themselves. As such, a judge will determine how long it would take for a spouse to achieve that. The court may order maintenance and determine the support duration after considering the following:
- Each spouse’s education level at the time of marriage and at the time divorce or separation commenced.
- Whether the education, training, or employment of the requesting spouse was interrupted during the marriage due to childcare or homemaking responsibilities.
- Each spouse’s earning capacity based on their educational background, employment skills, training, work experience, and the length of absence from the workforce.
- The time and cost of acquiring sufficient education or training to enable the requesting spouse to find appropriate employment.
- Specifically, a judge will order maintenance for a duration over which the requesting spouse will have completed education or training to help them get employment.
- The duration of spousal maintenance in Indiana mainly depends on the duration of a spouse’s or dependent child’s incapacity. Judges are likely to order maintenance for as long as the period of incapacity.
- Maintenance that is based on the incapacity of a spouse or dependent child will likely continue throughout the duration of the incapacity.
- A judge may order rehabilitative maintenance to be paid for up to three years. However, it may last for a shorter duration if the court establishes that the supported spouse can become self-supporting in less time.
Regardless of the type of spousal maintenance awarded, courts have the discretion in deciding its duration.
How To Pay Spousal Support Indiana
A decision on how to pay alimony is based on court findings of the financial circumstances of the supporting spouse. A judge will determine a suitable payment method and frequency depending on your divorce or separation case. Judges may also consider the assets of the supporting spouse.
If you lack a steady income but have many assets, you may be ordered to make a lump sum payment to your spouse. Spouses with a real property may also be required to transfer title to some property to their spouse to satisfy a maintenance obligation.
If you have a job and a steady income, a judge will likely order that your employer withhold maintenance payments from your paycheck. These alimony payments could be made on a weekly or monthly basis.
How To Avoid Paying Alimony in Indiana
A valid way to avoid paying support in Indiana is by showing that certain circumstances make the continuation of spousal maintenance payments unjust. That way, the court may establish that there is a need to modify or terminate spousal support.
– Modification of Alimony
Modifying a divorce order in Indiana is difficult, meaning that modifying the terms of spousal maintenance isn’t easy. You will need to show the court that your financial situation has significantly changed and your obligation to pay spousal maintenance is unreasonable.
Keep in mind that only court-ordered spousal maintenance can be modified. It is very unlikely to have your maintenance payments modified if you and your ex-spouse agree to support terms through a settlement agreement.
Situations such as sudden and involuntary unemployment cause financial hardship. This makes it difficult for you to continue making payments while meeting your own needs.
It is also possible for a judge to modify spousal maintenance if it was agreed upon by spouses in an agreement. Sometimes, one spouse may agree to pay spousal maintenance to the other without going to court. If that happens, spouses put the terms of spousal maintenance in an agreement.
In most cases, judges will uphold and enforce these agreements. What’s more, they are wary of modifying an agreement of spousal maintenance.
However, a judge may consider modifying maintenance if there has been a substantial change in circumstances and the terms of the agreement are unconscionable.
For instance, a spouse who agreed to pay $500 spousal maintenance every month may no longer be in a financial position to pay that amount if they involuntarily lose their job. In such cases, the judge will determine that upholding the agreement would be unfair as it would lead to undue financial hardship on the payor spouse.
In such cases, the judge will reduce the amount of maintenance or suspend payments until a time when the financial situation of the supporting spouse improves.
– Termination of Alimony
Like modification, you can request the court to terminate spousal maintenance if there have been substantial and continuing changes in circumstances that make support payments unreasonable.
If the remarriage or continued cohabitation of the recipient spouse puts them in a position of financial advantage, you can petition the court to terminate maintenance payments.
Also, the obligation to pay spousal maintenance will almost always end upon the death of either spouse.
– What Kind of Spousal Maintenance Can I Get in Indiana?
Under the Indiana divorce statute, a court has the power to order various types of spousal maintenance when it enters a final decree of legal separation or dissolution of marriage.
Disability spousal maintenance is awarded to your soon-to-be ex-spouse who has a mental or physical disability and is, therefore, unable to meet their financial needs.
A judge may order payments for this type of maintenance to continue for as long as they see fit. That means it could be short-term or long-term. However, disability spousal maintenance usually continues for as long as the disability lasts.
Caregiver spousal maintenance will likely be awarded if your spouse is the custodial parent of a child with mental or physical incapacity.
Such spouses can’t work outside of their home to financially support themselves due to their caregiver responsibility. In such situations, judges can order that the payments be temporary or permanent.
Rehabilitative spousal maintenance may be awarded to spouses who shouldered homemaking responsibilities and were thus in a position of financial disadvantage. It is not uncommon for one spouse to put aside their education or job to focus on homemaking.
During a divorce or legal separation, such spouses definitely need financial help to enable them to regain skills or get the education necessary to get appropriate employment.
In Indiana, rehabilitative support will likely last for no more than three years. Judges consider this an appropriate duration for dependent spouses to finally become self-supporting by securing employment.
– Is Alimony Different From Spousal Maintenance in Indiana?
Not really. The only difference is that alimony is an old concept, while spousal maintenance is more recent. Indiana courts historically ordered alimony in separation or divorce to achieve a fair property division for spouses.
Recently, the state enacted new legislation changing the term “alimony” to “spousal maintenance.” Under these recent Indiana alimony laws, judges can only award spousal support to parties with a need for financial help.
But spousal maintenance is different from child support. In Indiana, child support payments are meant to cater to the needs of a dependent child and are paid by one parent to the other or both parents.
On the other hand, spousal maintenance is paid by one spouse to the other. It is meant to directly provide financial support to a spouse who may have difficulty meeting their reasonable needs during and after divorce or legal separation.
– Can a Prenup Affect the Award of Spousal Maintenance in Indiana?
It depends. Generally, spouses in Indiana use prenuptial agreements (also known as premarital or antenuptial agreements) to make clear the terms of property division, alimony, retirement accounts, and attorney fees once they get married.
Under the Indiana Premarital Agreement statute, prenups must not contain unconscionable terms. It is advisable not to include such terms as those that eliminate spousal maintenance as they are likely to cause one spouse extreme financial hardship.
In any case, a prenup containing unconscionable terms is likely to be voided by the court and will not be valid in the future.
If a prenup contains fair and just terms regarding spousal maintenance, a judge will likely enforce that prenup during a divorce.
However, a court can still invalidate a prenup during divorce if there has been a change in financial circumstances that renders the agreement unconscionable.
– How Long Do I Have To Be Married To Get Alimony in Indiana?
There is no law that ties the length of your marriage to a maintenance award. Generally, a judge will award maintenance on the basis of need and the possibility of incapacitation.
However, spousal maintenance isn’t likely in short-term marriages. If both spouses are young, healthy, and able to meet their financial needs, it is unlikely that a judge will award maintenance. This is with the exception of a huge difference in incomes at the time of the divorce.
Spouses can make a decision regarding spousal maintenance when preparing their settlement agreement. Spouses can avoid litigation if one party agrees to pay support to their spouse who needs financial help to adjust to life during and after divorce.
Courts step in if spouses can’t agree on spousal maintenance. If a judge determines that there is a reason to award maintenance to one spouse, then they will order the appropriate type, amount, and duration and enter the award in the final divorce decree.
– How Can a Lawyer Help Me in My Petition for Indiana Spousal Maintenance?
The Indiana spousal maintenance statute allows support only in limited cases and, often, for a limited duration. As such, it is advisable to work with a lawyer who can help you get a maintenance award sufficient to make you financially independent as quickly as possible.
If you and your spouse decide to go to court for a decision, you may need a lawyer who understands Indiana divorce law and is skilled in litigation.
– Who Pays Lawyer Fees for Spousal Maintenance Cases in Indiana?
Indiana applies the American Rule in divorce and other areas of civil litigation. This rule says that two opposing parties in a legal matter have to pay their own attorney fees, regardless of who gets the judge’s decision.
As such, parties to a spousal maintenance case must pay their own lawyer’s fees. However, a judge may still order one spouse to pay the other’s attorney’s fees in some circumstances.
For instance, a judge may order the high-earning to pay part of the other spouse’s attorney’s fees if that spouse is a stay-at-home parent with little or no income.
Judges may also place the obligation to pay lawyer fees on a spouse who’s acted in bad faith in the case. Such spouses could have lied to the court, hidden assets, or failed to provide essential documents or information needed during discovery.
– How Much Are Typical Spousal Maintenance Payments in Indiana?
There is no single answer to this question. The calculation of maintenance payments differs from that of child support, and it would be difficult to assign a dollar value to the typical maintenance payment.
The circumstances of every case are unique, and a judge will evaluate various factors before settling for an appropriate amount of spousal maintenance.
Ultimately, a judge will award an amount enough to cover the reasonable bills of the requesting spouse before they become self-supporting.
Alimony, better known as spousal maintenance in Indiana, is reserved for limited cases. When awarded, a judge will order payments to be made only for a limited duration. Generally, the determination of spousal maintenance depends on various circumstances or certain considerations by the court. The article has covered the various aspects of spousal maintenance in Indiana. So, here is a quick look at the main points of the discussion:
- In Indiana, judges mainly consider incapacitation, lack of sufficient property, custody of a child with a disability, and need for rehabilitation when ruling on spousal maintenance.
- The amount and duration of support will depend on the reasonable needs of the supported spouse and the time needed to become self-supporting.
- A substantial change in circumstances could warrant modification or discontinuation of spousal maintenance.
- Marital misconduct doesn’t affect the award of maintenance but can influence the decision on the amount and duration.
Since spousal maintenance in Indiana is only ordered by courts on limited occasions, spouses can agree on alimony terms if one party needs financial help. If you can’t agree on maintenance issues with your soon-to-be-ex, you can still avoid litigation by speaking to a mediator.
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