What is alimony?
In an action for divorce or for legal separation, the court, in addition to dividing community property and community debts, can order payments to be made from one party to the other for the support and education. These payments are alimony. Alimony can be paid in a lump sum or, more commonly, in periodic payments.
There is no formula regarding the computation of alimony.
Nevada law states that an alimony award has to be “just and equitable.” The words “just and equitable” signify that a judge has discretion in determining the amount and duration. This discretion makes it difficult to predict what is “just and equitable” in the eyes of the particular judge the case was assigned to. Knowledge of the judge’s previous awards of alimony and knowledge of the facts of the case are essential in estimating what the alimony award, if any, will be.
What does the law tell the judge to consider regarding the award of alimony?
Under Nevada law, a judge must consider the following factors in determining whether or not to award alimony, the amount of the award, and whether it should be a lump sum or periodic payments:
- The financial condition of each spouse;
- The nature and value of the respective property of each spouse;
- The contribution of each spouse to any property held by the spouses;
- The duration of the marriage;
- The income, earning capacity, age and health of each spouse;
- The standard of living during the marriage;
- The career before the marriage of the spouse who would receive the alimony;
- The existence of specialized education or training or the level of marketable skills attained by each spouse during the marriage;
- The contribution of either spouse as homemaker;
- The award of property granted by the court in the divorce, other than child support and alimony, to the spouse who would receive the alimony; and
- The physical and mental condition of each party as it relates to the financial condition, health and ability to work of that spouse.
Alimony award to enable a spouse to enter the work force.
In addition to the factors listed above the judge must also consider the need to grant alimony to a spouse for the purpose of obtaining training or education relating to a job, career or profession. The judge has to consider whether the spouse who would be paying such alimony has obtained greater job skills during the marriage and whether the spouse that would be receiving such alimony has provided financial support while the other spouse obtain job skills or education. An example of a typical scenario is where one spouse goes to medical school during marriage and gets in advanced degree while the other spouse makes it possible for the advancement by working and maintaining the family.
If the court determines that alimony should be awarded for training, then the court must specify in the order the time within which the spouse who is the recipient of the alimony must begin the training, job, career or profession.
The alimony amount that is provided for education, can include the following costs as well:
- Testing of the recipient’s skills relating to a job, career or profession;
- Evaluation of the recipient’s abilities and goals relating to a job, career or profession;
- Guidance for the recipient in establishing a specific plan for training or education relating to a job, career or profession;
- Subsidization of an employer’s costs incurred in training the recipient;
- Assisting the recipient to search for a job; or
- Payment of the costs of tuition, books and fees for:
- The equivalent of a high school diploma;
- College courses which are directly applicable to the recipient’s goals for his or her career; or
- Courses of training in skills desirable for employment.
Early termination of alimony.
Alimony payments under the decree stop in the event of the death of either party or the subsequent marriage of the spouse to whom alimony payments were made, unless otherwise ordered by the court. So this raises the question whether the court can order the estate of the deceased ex-spouse to be liable for periodic alimony payment to the other spouse.
Modification of alimony.
The spouse who is paying alimony may file a motion to modify the order upon changed circumstances. The paying spouse may get relief if his gross monthly income is reduced. The paying spouse will need to show a change of 20% or more in gross monthly income for the court consider modification of the alimony order. The court can not retroactively modify accrued payments. So it is very important to file a motion to reduce the alimony payments as soon as the drop in income occurs.
Unlike child support, alimony is considered as income to the recipient and as expense to the payer.