Indiana Alimony: Should Legislators Scrap It?

Once upon a time, it used to be a foregone conclusion that a divorcing husband would be expected to pay alimony to his ex-wife, possibly for the rest of her life.
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Highland divorce lawyers know the tides shifted dramatically. In fact, there has been legislation mulled in at least a dozen states that would effectively eliminate alimony, or at least lifetime alimony. One of those, Massachusetts, has passed such a measure and another, New Jersey, is likely to do so before the end of this session.

No such measure is currently being weighed in Indiana, but such debate could be on the horizon in the near future.

Alimony, also sometimes called spousal support or spousal maintenance, is a payment made in either monthly or quarterly installments (or in rare occasions, a lump sum) that is supposed to serve as a financial buoy to the spouse who is disadvantaged.

In years past, when it was more common for women to be homemakers and men to be breadwinners, such financial support made a great deal of sense. It wasn’t fair for the wife and mother to be left destitute simply because the union didn’t work out.

However, a recent Pew poll revealed that some 40 percent of mothers are now the primary wage earners in the family. Still, only 3 percent of alimony recipients are men.

Of course, alimony as a whole is much rarer than it used to be. Permanent alimony payments are unheard of, and even long-term arrangements are becoming more scarce.

If alimony in Indiana is awarded, it is typically on a temporary basis and even then, only under very specific circumstances.

The first possibility is that one spouse is either physically or mentally incapacitated in such a way that it impacts that person’s ability to be self-supporting. In these cases, support could last for as long as the incapacity exists, though courts always retain the right to go back and later modify the order.

The second possibility is that the court determines that one spouse lacked enough property, even after the marital property is divided, to meet his or her needs AND that he or she has custody of a child who is mentally or physically incapacitated. Further, that incapacity has rendered the parent unable to work. All elements must be true in order for support to be awarded under this clause. The judge can order support payments to span whatever time frame he or she may deem appropriate.

In the third possibility, the court finds that it is appropriate to award support considering both parties’ education and earning potential. The court is also going to look at whether one spouse interrupted his or her career or education in order to care for family needs. In these cases, support is considered “rehabilitative,” and is only intended to last long enough for the aggrieved party to become retrained or gain meaningful employment.

The state doesn’t have any hard-and-fast guidelines, so the judge truly has a great deal of discretion in these cases.

Still, the courts are certainly not handing out support payments with reckless disregard for each individual’s situation. Eliminating certain alimony options entirely might not affect a large percentage of the divorcing populace, but taking it off the table could be highly detrimental to a few.

Making a strong case in your favor is going to require an experienced family law attorney with a proven track record of success.

Indiana Family Law Attorney Burton A. Padove handles divorce, alimony and child custody matters throughout northern Indiana, including Gary, Hammond and Calumet City. Call Toll Free 877-446-5294.

Additional Resources:
Is This the End of Alimony? June 27, 2013, By Cheryl Lock, LearnVest
More Blog Entries:
Highland Divorce Lawyers Caution Against “Destination Divorces,” Aug. 1, 2013, Gary Divorce Lawyer Blog