All across the country, state laws are changing with respect to alimony. The trend is generally disfavoring alimony awards in divorce cases. Indiana alimony law has also experienced changes in recent years. Now, alimony (called "spousal maintenance" under Indiana law) is only awarded in limited circumstances and for a limited amount of time. Learn more about your rights and responsibilities under the new support obligations.
The Indiana Spousal Maintenance Statute
Section 31-15-7 of the Indiana Code governs spousal maintenance. In general, a court can order an award of spousal maintenance in three situations:
- If a spouse has a physical or mental incapacity which materially affects that spouse's ability to provide for him or herself.
- If a spouse is custodian of a child whose physical or mental condition requires that spouse to forego employment, and the spouse also lacks sufficient property to meet his or her needs.
- If a spouse is eligible for rehabilitative maintenance in order to complete the education or training necessary to find appropriate employment. (See below for eligibility requirements.)
Spouses can also agree to a spousal maintenance award outside the parameters of Section 31-15-7. In this case, it is important for both spouses to consult with their own divorce attorney prior to executing a settlement, to ensure that each party's legal interests with respect to spousal maintenance are adequately protected. An experienced Indiana family law attorney can help defend your right to receive, or challenge your obligation to pay, alimony.
Rehabilitative Spousal Maintenance
The physical or mental conditions which are significant enough to affect a spouse's ability to work are rare. As a result, rehabilitative spousal maintenance is quickly becoming the most common type of spousal maintenance awarded in Indiana. Rehabilitative maintenance can be awarded for no longer than three years. While not all states have this strict limit on the length of rehabilitative alimony, they all promote the goal of making a spouse self-sufficient, so that he or she will eventually not need alimony.
In deciding whether to award rehabilitative spousal maintenance, a court will consider: the education level of each spouse; whether one spouse interrupted their career to take on homemaking or child care responsibilities; the earning capacity of each spouse; and the time and expense necessary in order to allow the spouse seeking maintenance to become qualified for appropriate employment.
It is also important for divorce litigants to understand that rehabilitative maintenance is not guaranteed for three full years. A court may find that less time is necessary in order for the receiving spouse to find appropriate employment. Section 31-15-7-3 of the Indiana Code also allows for existing spousal maintenance orders to be modified, or even revoked entirely.
With changes and limitations to Indiana spousal maintenance laws, it is more important than ever that divorce litigants consult a family law attorney, and fully understand their rights and responsibilities with respect to alimony. This will allow each spouse to plan ahead and make financial arrangements based upon reasonable expectations for alimony payments. Spousal maintenance is designed to make each spouse financially independent. By engaging fully in this process, divorce litigants can build a new life which allows them to move past the pain of divorce.